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Roundtable Report

Folks, I wish I could tell you that I just now got back from vacation but rather it has taken me a week to get back in the full swing of things.  It does look like I missed the better part of a bizarre basho but thanks to Mike's comprehensive report I feel there is nothing left for me to cover. Therefore, I'll take a slightly different approach this time and provide just a couple of comments and open it up on a topic that has been bothering me about the state of sumo for quite some time.

 

I guess this basho will be remembered for producing the first ever disqualification of a Yokozuna win, a bout that got ink even in my rural vacation destination of Lebanon, Pennsylvania (not exactly an international metropolis).  Interestingly, the write-up in the local paper there made it sound like we have an unthinkable cheater of a grand champion on our hands in the pristine national sport of sumo.  Now there's a good way to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

 

Mike provided some excellent rebuttals on the mysterious sansho selections. I generally agree.  The only thing I can think of that influenced the Kyokai's picking Tokitsuumi for Ginosho over Asasekiryu is the difference in win-loss trend over the 15 days.  Despite the ridiculous "we'll give you this sansho if you win on day 15" stipulations, the sansho selections are such that the recipients are pretty much determined by day 14. Asasekiryu's spectacular wins over Miyabiyama and Wakanosato at the end of the basho were too late.  Tokitsuumi, although technically his sumo wasn't spectacular, made headlines early on with a 6-0 start and brought the basho some excitement by hanging around in the yusho race until late in the game. In my opinion this merits a Kantosho, but the fact remains that Asasekiryu was too little too late in stimulating interest in an otherwise mundane basho of sumo technique.  Starting slow, getting lost in the shuffle, then winning your last seven bouts as Seki did won't garner any attention for a sansho selection. Remember Tochinonada in January?  He lost his first four and reeled off eleven consecutive wins to close at a remarkable 11-4 and got absolutely no love from the higher-ups.  Considering the alarming number of empty seats that were seen in Nagoya Prefectural Gymnasium this basho, I think the message is clear:  To win a sansho, you've got to conjure some excitement, not sneak up and have a good tournament when the ticket sales are already in the books.

 

Speaking of empty seats, I myself cannot remember such a barren area in my 20+ years of watching sumo.  They didn't even have enough fannies on the zabuton to fill up the TV screen during the broadcasts, and the camera only captures the stands about half way up the gymnasium.  To what can we contribute this stunning drop in attendance?  It's not stunning at all, actually.  It's really quite obvious.  The sumo rikishi today cannot stay healthy enough to do their jobs, and people don't want to pay to see weak competition.  Yokozuna are supposed to be invincible.  They are supposed to win tournaments.  This basho we had no Yokozuna make it through the 15 days.  Yokozuna have won a paltry two of the last seven basho.  Sure I love seeing a Takatoriki or a Kotomitsuki win a Yusho from the rank-and-file every now and again as any fan does, but I expect a certain quality of sumo to be sustained at the top of the sport.  Who would pay to see Musashimaru perform the way he did this basho?  Not I.  The Kyokai should be thankful to have Asashoryu or there'd be even less attendance these days.

 

So the next question is:  Why are there so many injuries plaguing the sport today?  This basho alone there were six Makuuchi rikishi and four Juryo rikishi who completely sat out or did not finish due to injury.  That's a whopping ten sekitori.  That's too much, and sadly it has become the norm lately.  I'd still like to know when we last had all Yokozuna and Ozeki complete one tournament at the same time.  Ask for the last time we had that plus have all Ozeki achieve kachikoshi and you're probably talking the better part of a decade.  No wonder attendance is suffering since the Waka-Taka days.  Where are the Fujizakuras and Kaiketsus of yesterday, who never missed a bout in an entire career of competition?

 

The difference?  Well, we all know that rikishi are fatter than ever.  This comes mostly from the proliferation of unhealthy Western and fast foods of today that have besieged Japan over the last twenty years, in my opinion. In the 70's and earlier, there just weren't as many unhealthy choices as there are today.  We also know that rikishi are stronger than ever.  This comes from the adoption of weight training as a more integral part of sumo training.  Kirishima was a pioneer for this approach back in the 80's.  He was a hard gainer whose nutritional and training discipline changed the landscape of a sport not accustomed to protein shakes and bench presses. Whether fatter or stronger or both, heavier people crashing down on hard clay could explain the increasing amount of injuries.

 

But I'll leave you with this bone to chew on.  It's hard to deny that Western ways make their way over to Japan, whether it be fashion or weight training.  There's usually a delay but eventually they show up in old Nippon.  Considering the constant presence and controversy of performance enhancing drugs in the West or globally in the Olympics for that matter, could it be that the pride of Japan's national sport is hiding an ugly reality?  Could our beloved rikishi of today be juiced?  I know it's hard to imagine given sumo's image and practices steeped in tradition, but how else can we explain the number of injuries these days?  If drugged, people become stronger than their joints and natural frames are able to support.  Combine this phenomenon with poor nutrition and a hard surface to crash down on and it doesn't bode well for staying healthy.  If you don't agree, please write us with your take on why rikishi can't stay healthy today as opposed to 30 years ago.  I'd really like to know.  Maybe in September my continued hope of having all Yokozuna and Ozeki complete a basho together unscathed will come true, but again I won't hold my breath.  And I'm not a pessimist. Looking forward to hearing from you, and see you in a little over a month.

 

Day 13 Comments (reported by Todd Lambert)

Lucky thirteen!  The yusho picture is getting a little clearer as three rikishi are tied for the lead at 10-3, and four others are tied for second at 9-4.  Two Ozeki ・Kaio and Chiyotaikai - are in the leading group, along with Maegashira Miyabiyama.  Ozeki Musoyama, Sekiwake Wakanosato, Maegashira Tokitsuumi and Tosanoumi follow on their heels one back of the leaders of the pack.

 

Starting with sanyaku and the final bout, Kaio thoroughly dominated Tokitsuumi, who tried to sidestep the Ozeki at tachi-ai.  Both men plodded off the line, but Kaio was able to get a hand in on the belt before Tokitsuumi could dodge away.  The Maegashira then tried the seldom-successful makikae (grip change), and was promptly marched out for his fourth loss. Kaio remains with the leaders at 10-3, and Tokitsuumi drops one back to second place.

 

In an all Ozeki torikumi, Chiyotaikai and Musoyama bonked coconuts at the tachi-ai, but it was slap-happy Taikai who took charge with a couple of hard thrusts, a good nodowa (neck grip), and a couple more shoves to send Muso off the mound.  Chiyo stays in the group on top with a 10-3 record.  Muso falls to number two.

 

Tochiazuma desperately needed to win against Takanonami to have any hope of pulling out a winning record this basho.  He still looks like he could go back to kadoban status (an Ozeki in danger of demotion) at any time.  He was more aggressive today, reminiscent of his pre-Ozeki days when he fought, not thought in the ring.  There were the usual false starts that Nami resorts to, to compensate for his flagging strength and condition.  Tochi wasnít rattled, blasted through, and sent the sole Futagoyama Makuuchi man to his makekoshi eighth loss.

 

Fan favorite Takamisakari faced Wakanosato today.  He was looking to polish off his second Sekiwake, after defeating two Yokozuna and two Ozeki.  Both men got right hands in, but Wakanosato drove him back twice, only to get Robocop out on his third drive to the edge.  Wakanosato has won seven straight, and stands in second at 9 and 4.

 

New Sekiwake Kyokutenho will still be moving back down the banzuke after winning over burly Tamanoshima.  He may be able to stay in sanyaku as Komusubi if he wins the remainder of his bouts.  Both rikishi managed to get strong left hand in, right hand out grips, and locked up in the center of the ring.  Despite two powerful drives to the tawara by Tamanoshima, Kyokutenho was able to stay in, and twist out his foe for the victory.

 

In the lower ranks, Miyabiyama convincingly beat Kasuganishiki to keep up with the second place group.  He was slow off the shikirisen, but snowed his opponent in with a flurry of slaps, sending Kasuganishiki flying into the third row.  He looks to be back in sanyaku for the next go-round in Tokyo this September.

 

Former Sekiwake and local boy Kotomitsuki was slapped down by the big man with the mutton-chop sideburns, Toki.  Kotomitsuki bounced off the bigger man in the initial charge, and was slapped away every time he went for the belt.  Toki pulled off his patented technique, slapping down his opponent just before being pushed out himself.  The judge called the match in Tokiís favor, but the ringside judges called a conference to talk things over.  The gyojiís decision was upheld, and Toki gets the win along with a winning record.  Heís dangerously close to sanyaku for such a one-dimensional fighter.  Look for him to take one of the sansho prizes.

 

Rounding out todayís action, Tosanoumi blew a shot at joining the leaders when he was slapped down by Hokutoriki right off the tachi-ai.  Tosa looked as if he might step out of the crouch and force a matta, but jumped off the line after a long pause.  He had his head down, and Hokutoriki wisely stepped to the side and helped his foe to the clay.  Hokutoriki gets kachikoshi.

 

So, as it stands, I believe either Kaio or Chiyotakai will take the tournament championship in Nagoya.  Miyabiyama and Musoyama have an outside shot if one of the leaders drops the ball.  Chiyotaikai faces Tokitsuumi tomorrow, and Kaio faces fellow Ozeki Musoyama. If either of the leading Ozeki falters, Miyabiyama could sneak in the back door, as he fights slightly weaker opponents the final weekend (Tosanoumi and Takanonami).  The final day features an all Ozeki showdown between Chiyotaikai and Kaio, and that will probably be for all the marbles.  Iím off to the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium tomorrow to see for myself.

 

Day 7 Comments

The leader board is becoming clearer as we approach the half-way point, but the judging of the bouts remains cloudy.  Asashoryu (5-2) out dueled Takanonami (3-4) today in a nage-no-uchiai (throwing contest).  It was Asashoryu's shitatenage (inside belt grip throw) vs. Takanonami's kotenage (beltless overhand hook throw).  Asa used a good tachiai to straighten up Takanonami, then quickly gained inside position.  But as you know Nami is no slouch in such a conventionally compromised position.  After some brief posturing, the throwing began at the edge of the ring.  The Yokozuna prevailed.  In the end, Asa just wants it more than his opponents. You can see it in his eyes and his actions. 

 

Musoyama (6-1) was put in a bind by Tamanoshima (3-4) when the latter got inside on him and raised Muso's left hand high, but Tama didn't seize the opportunity and thus it led to his undoing.  Musoyama quickly did a maki-kae (went from outside to inside position) to gain a more favorable stance from which to attack.  He did, and dumped Tama to the dohyo with a nicely executed shitatenage. 

 

Tochiazuma (5-2) succeeded in not allowing the struggling Aminishiki (2-5) to secure his belt.  He kept Ami in front of him and whacked his right shoulder at just the right time to help Ami fall forward for a tsukiotoshi win. 

 

The next two bouts were eerily similar and, although the gyoji made the right call on both, the judges were mysteriously silent in both cases.  Kaio (5-2) attacked Toki (4-3) for the bout's entirety but in the 11th hour Mr. Lambchop employed his signature well-timed pull at ring's edge to bring Kaio crashing down.  The ball of Toki's left foot was oh so close to touching outside when Kaio's hand hit dirt that I was flabbergasted when no hands went up for at least a "kakunin" (confirmation) conference.  Kaio was too, as he looked around at the judges on his way back to bow.  In the bout previous, Chiyotaikai (5-2) came out blazing with furious pushing (so blazing in fact, that he did not touch his left hand down before the tachiai) against Wakanosato (3-4).  Waka was overwhelmed and was at ring's edge before you could say "Where's Chiyo's bad pulling habit?". However, as with Toki, at the tawara Waka gave a last gasp maneuver to side step charging opponent.  Amazingly, it worked.  The gyoji gave Waka the nod, but this one was an even closer call than Kaio's bout.  Still, no hands went up.  Interestingly, the head judge was Chiyo's stablemaster Kokonoe.  Maybe he didn't want to seem like he was questioning the gyoji in the name of defending his own guy.  But again, bouts this close usually warrant a conference to "confirm" that the guy being pushed out was in fact still in the ring and there was none of that today.  In the end the non-calls were good judgments, but the judges' inconsistency lately is a source of concern.  If it had been Asashoryu that had been given the nod by the gyoji, I wonder if the judges would have raised their hands?  Something tells me, "Probably".  Anyway, Kaio and Chiyo both suffered huge defeats today.

 

In the rank and file, Tosanoumi is having a good basho.  He sent Tokitsuumi to his first defeat today; both now stand at 6-1.  The only other rikishi still hanging on to one loss is Kasuganishiki.  As far as sansho hopefuls, Miyabiyama is looking strong at M1 with a 5-2 record.  Today he pulled down the struggling Kyokutenho (2-5).

 

Well folks, I'm off to vacation in a RV with no more TV Japan for a week. I've got my VCR set to tape the rest of the basho.  Enjoy it everyone; I'll catch up with you all for my usual roundtable report right after senshuraku!

 

Day 5 Comments

Oh, boy.  Here we go again.  Asashoryu continues to be victimized by bad breaks, and Musashimaru finally spared us of any more misery by withdrawing after doling out a third kinboshi in as many days.

 

In a revenge bout against countryman Kyokushuzan (remember last basho's classic), Asashoryu was befuddled again in the first ever disqualification of a Yokozuna victory.  The match initially mirrored last time as Kyokushuzan (1-4) attempted his usual pull after the tachi-ai.  This time Asa wasn't fooled and used the momentum to drive Shuzan back to the edge. With Shuzan trying to resist being driven out, this time Asa used the pull down to bring his opponent crashing to the clay.  During the pull, Asa's left hand inadvertently got caught in Shuzan's hair.  Since 1955 when the Sumo Kyokai officially recognized "intentional pulling of hair" as a rules violation, there have been only 5 cases of disqualifications and none by a Yokozuna.  Head judge Mihogaseki (former Ozeki Masuiyama), who called the mono-ii (conference), stated "the hair was clearly pulled, and continued to be grasped which contributed to the outcome; thus the disqualification". Okay, this is a true statement.  But then he said "it doesn't matter whether it was intentional or not".  Hmm, I'm not so sure I'm okay with that statement since it's in blatant disregard of the recognized definition of the disqualification.  You mean to tell me that, in the heat of the battle--in that split second of time when you are employing a move to win a match--a rikishi is expected to mentally take note that his fingers have become stuck in his opponent's hair, then actually make a judgment to release your hand from the hair, then resume the bout in the name of fair play?  I'm sorry, but this is simply impossible and I challenge anyone who thinks Asashoryu could have reacted in better judgment to his fingers being stuck before the match was over.  The guy was trying to win the bout, not pull hair.  Our wonderful judges ringside are mysteriously silent when there is a questionable outcome as in day 2 when Kotonowaka was given the nod over Asashoryu even though Koto's hand hit first, but are eager to raise hands when our fiery Yokozuna happens to get a handful of topknot en route to victory.  In other words, Asa doesn't get the call whether he's on defense (day 2) or offense (day 5).  I'll tell you what: there's no better outcome for Nagoya now than to have Asashoryu run the freakin' table and yusho to show the Sumo Kyokai in no uncertain terms that, even with all odds against him, he is the best rikishi in sumo today.  Asashoryu falls to 3-2 on paper but remains unbeaten on the dohyo in Nagoya.

 

Takamisakari (4-1) grabbed his first career kinboshi in defeating Musashimaru (2-3) to drive the final stake into the one-handed Yokozuna's Nagoya basho.  Thank goodness.  There's no need to go into describing the match here.  Asanowaka could have beaten Musashimaru today.  It's back to the drawing board for Maru.  How much healthier do you think his wrist would be today if he had not made the first bad decision to try coming back too soon a couple months ago?

 

Kaio (4-1) defeated Wakanosato (2-3) in a chest-to-chest strength match in which both rikishi had the left inside grip.  If you lock up with Kaio you've gotten yourself into a bind, even if you're Wakanosato and Kaio doesn't have his right outside grip.

 

Chiyotaikai (4-1) got a taste of his own medicine when Miyabiyama (3-2) conveniently side-stepped him to hand the Ozeki his first loss.  How do you like them apples, Chiyo?

 

Aminishiki, with left ankle wrapped, couldn't get a hold of Musoyama's belt.  He soon ran out of patience and tried the pull down, at which point Musoyama (4-1) drove Ami (1-4) right out of the ring.

 

Tochiazuma (3-2) narrowly escaped a third consecutive loss due to his swift instincts at the tawara (rope) in which he circled around a hard charging Tochinonada (2-3) and turned the tables.  It looks like it's going to be another touch and go basho for our struggling Ozeki.

 

With the basho one-third complete, Tokitsuumi (5-0) is the last remaining unbeaten.  He looks sensational coming off a pretty serious injury from which he stated he has not completely recovered.  One behind in the 4-1 chase pack are Tosanoumi, Kaiho, Gojoro, Kasuganishiki, Kotomitsuki and Ushiomaru.

 

Day 3 Comments

As if yesterday's questionable Asashoryu loss (boy, was Mike upset about that one) opened the floodgates, today we saw 3 of the 5 top guys who fought drop like flies.  You knew it was coming; it was just a matter of time.

 

Asashoryu (2-1) rebounded against Miyabiyama (1-2).  After a right harite (slap) to greet Miyabi, Asa used good timing to pull down the top rank & filer before he could regain his wits.  Not model sumo, but considering Asa is coming off an early loss and also nursing a strained elbow suffered on day 1, it got the job done.  One final comment on his loss:  Asashoryu is like an ace pitcher working with an ump who has a hitter's strike zone.  He needs to win convincingly because he won't be getting any close calls from the judges.

 

Even though you may not believe me, I saw this bout coming with Musashimaru today.  Aminishiki (1-2) ran circles around Maru (2-1) and kept the one-handed Yokozuna off balance the entire time to pick up his second kinboshi.  Ami didn't let the big cheese grab his belt with his good hand. With this accomplished, combined with Ami's agility and belt prowess, the writing was on the wall.  Speaking of which, I think the writing is on the wall for Maru.  He looks plain awful.  I'll give him a few more days before he withdraws.

 

Musoyama (3-0) picked up a gimme today as Kotonowaka (1-2) pulled out of the basho with an injured bicep sustained in his "win" yesterday against Asashoryu.

 

Kyokutenho (2-1) dropped Tochiazuma (2-1) in a very similar fashion to how Asashoryu pulled down Miyabiyama, except that Tenho opted for the morote (both hands to chest) tachiai instead of the harite.  After that, when Tenho couldn't secure the belt right away I think he just impulsively went for the pull.  Azuma helped matters with a haphazard tachiai and placing his feet even with his shoulders instead of one in front of the other.

 

In another quick and lopsided bout, Komusubi Tochinonada (1-2) took it to Kaio (2-1) and made the Ozeki look like an amateur.  Kaio even got his coveted right outside grip but it was to no avail.  When he tried to twist Tochi down with his other hand behind his neck, Tochi would have none of it.  He just soldiered on and pushed Kaio right out in about 2 seconds. Kaio: magnificent one day and lost the next.  Seriously, is anyone really surprised?

 

The only Ozeki to win a bout today was Chiyotaikai (3-0).  And lucky him that it was an opponent that wouldn't propose any strength challenge in Kyokushuzan (0-3).  We know the story here.  Just plow right through him in that case.  And that's what he did.  Ho hum.  When Chiyo can have that mentality against strong guys, he'll finally get my respect.  I'm not holding my breath.

 

Come to think of it, there wasn't much good sumo in the top ranks today. It stunk, actually.  Let's hope for more Yokozuna and Ozeki-like content in the days to come.  In the rank and file, Tokitsuumi, Kasuganishiki and Ushiomaru both extended their unblemished records to 3-0, while Toki's tricks didn't work against Wakanosato.  They both stand at 2-1.

 

Day 1 Comments

Not only did all six Yokozuna and Ozeki start this basho, they all started without a hitch.  How rare is that?  We know this kind of streak won't continue, but let's just hope they all continue participating.

 

Asashoryu was his usual whirlwind of movement, and Komusubi Tochinonada couldn't keep up in the end.  He did manage to swing the Yokozuna to the side to garner a collective gasp from the arena but soon thereafter found himself turned the wrong way with Asa behind him.  After a brief pause, Asa lifted Tochi up and disposed of him.  So starts another basho as the top dog for Asashoryu.  Vintage.

 

Musashimaru, gracing the dohyo for the first time in 234 days, should count his lucky stars that he picked a win today.  Sekiwake Kyokutenho won the battle but lost the war.  He grabbed Maru's migi uwate and stuck to him as planned, threw him, pushed him, even re-secured the belt after being rejected of it and kept the pressure on.  After keeping the (tied for) fourth winningest Makuuchi rikishi of all time off balance for about 10 seconds, Kyoku's leg slipped from under him and he fell as he was pushing Maru at the edge of the dohyo.  He later stated he got a little too anxious because he didn't want to stop moving.  Maru looked awful, folks.  He better shape up in a hurry.

 

Kaio beat Miyabiyama in very Kaio-like fashion.  Kaio is a master at using his opponent's momentum against him.  After a cautious tachi-ai, Kaio picked the right thrust at the right time from Miyabiyama for a nicely executed inashi (sort of a slap to the side) to dump the former Ozeki to a first day loss.  Winning on the first day is huge for Kaio.

 

Chiyotaikai, who tinkered with belt technique before the basho, thought better of it and blasted through the improving Aminishiki with brute force.  If Chiyo forgets this belt business and doesn't wuss out on his oshi-zumo against stronger opponents, he will be in contention on day 15.

 

Musoyama similarly plowed through Mike's nemesis Kyokushuzan, except that Kyokushuzan retreated to help his opponent push him out even faster.  But we're not really surprised, are we.  What was interesting was the commentary during this bout.  Sit-in Mainoumi mentioned that Musoyama only practices about 10 bouts a day, describing it as "focusing his intensity into a short and sweet session".  Kitanofuji, the booth color man, takes this type of practice as complacency.  "He no longer wants to move up.  In fact, he can't with that little practice".  Interesting.  Is Musoyama a 'salary man' Ozeki?  Does he just want to win 8-10 and keep rank?  Or is he still worried about his shoulder?  I've grown to love Kitanofuji's analysis.  It's strict and he pulls no punches.  In this case I'd have to agree with him.  We'll see shortly how it pans out. 

 

Tochiazuma made Kotonowaka look all of his 35 years, as a ho-hum looking uwate nage dropped Mr. Ippun in a hurry.  Apparently Tochiazuma was quite the active de-geiko rikishi (visiting other stables for practice) before the basho and is reported to be in good shape.  As Kitanofuji puts it, if he stops worrying about his sumo being perfect he may be able to make an impact.

 

Opposite new Sekiwake Kyokutenho is Wakanosato, who has now spent 17 basho in a row at M1 or above.  That's over 3 years.  With 11, 9 and 9 wins over the last 3 basho, it's about time this guy puts it together for a Ozeki run once and for all.  He's off to a good start as he had no part of Takanonami's overhand meat hook approach.  Waka just twisted him down with a scoop throw from underneath. 

 

In the Maegashira ranks Takamisakari turned the tables on Tamanoshima, as did Asasekiryu against Iwakiyama.  Toki did his thing against Tosanoumi by baiting Tosa with his long arms only to slap him down.  Kaiho and Gojoro engaged in a rare bout where both rikishi thought it was a matta and completely stopped moving.  The gyoji, however, didn't acknowledge and the action resumed after an exaggerated pause.  Kaiho won with relative ease.  Finally, the tall Kasuganishiki handcuffed Kotomitsuki's elbows (ouch) and ousted the hometown favorite.  The jury is still out on Koto's true condition, as it is with this whole basho.  At least we're off to a clean start.  If everybody stays healthy, it could get interesting.

 

Nagoya Pre-basho Report

We stand on the brink of the first basho since who knows when that all Yokozuna and Ozeki will participate at the same time.  But tread lightly, because Musashimaru and his forever-ailing wrist may cause him to withdraw yet again.  Likewise for rank and filer Kotomitsuki, whose off again on again shenanigans has him participating as of today.  But don't expect either of these two to make it through the basho.  Sumo is suffering because of these irresponsible rehab decisions.  If everyone would just take the time to heal, they wouldn't prolong their misery.  Otherwise, we have another rarity in that there are no Makuuchi or Juryo newcomers crashing the top two divisions.

 

The Yokozunas are preparing in a similar fashion but are in anything but similar conditions.  Asashoryu went 11-0 in a recent keiko session against sekitori but has since shown a laid-back approach to his final prep, playing volleyball and doing media appearances.  He is completely healthy. Musashimaru went 13-2 recently but is favoring his wrist.  He hasn't gone all out yet and can't even grab his opponent well.  He also looks even fatter and out of shape.  I see people running circles around him for a few days to force him into withdrawing before he can get his rhythm back.

 

We have all four of our Ozeki, and none of them are kadoban.  Kaio tops the list this time and looks in good shape as shown by his 13-8 performance against Chiyotaikai in a recent session.  It's promising that Kaio is not nursing any injuries, but even with a healthy Kaio you just don't know what you'll get.  He could take the basho or go 8-7.  If he's at least 4-1 through the first five days, look for him to make some noise.  Chiyotaikai is trying to focus on yotsu-zumo to diversify his attack.  I think this is a big mistake; the last thing this guy needs is another mental burden during his matches.  He needs to focus on his strength and just plow through his opponents.  Hokutoumi was one-dimensional and was a fine Yokozuna.  If Chiyo comes out pushing, he'll be okay.  If he comes out tinkering with this belt stuff, look for him to struggle for 8 wins. Musoyama claims to be healthy.  Last time this occurred, I picked him to win the yusho and he went 0-7 before withdrawing.  With his shoulder not weighing on his mind, hopefully we'll see a strong Musoyama.  Wrapping up the Ozeki ranks is dark horse Tochiazuma.  There's not much being reported on him, and not much good to say about his sumo recently.  Maybe it's a 'no news is good news situation' with Tochi.  I have a feeling he may sneak up and have a decent basho.

 

At Sekiwake we have mainstay Wakanosato and late bloomer Kyokutenho.  Take your pick here for the next Ozeki.  I still give Wakanosato the edge if he can avoid losing to lesser competition.  I'll give him 10 wins in Nagoya. Kyokutenho took a very long time to become Sekiwake, but this guy has arrived.  He went 5-1 against Tosanoumi the other day and seems to be working harder and harder.  He's coming off a 10-5 from Komusubi in May. Don't be surprised if he quietly wins in double digits again.

 

This just in:  Dejima is out.  His ailing right knee has gotten the best of him and he will sit this one out.  Dejima has worked hard to make it back up the ranks, and now this.  You just have to feel for this guy.  His wheels are the only thing between him and regaining Ozeki status.  The lone Komusubi becomes Tochinonada, who has been steadily climbing himself.  He lost steam in May and finished 8-7, but he's capable of better than that. Look for him to be a constant headache for the joi.

 

Here are some remaining rank and file tidbits.  Enjoy the basho everyone.

 

Between M1 and M3 we have M1 Miyabiyama knocking on the sanyaku door again. If he can avoid the same fate as Dejima and stay healthy, he maybe capable of mounting another run at Ozeki.  M1 Aminishiki is coming off an 11-4 performance but will be challenged severely in Nagoya.  Let's see how far his technique can compensate for his slight build.  At M2 Kyokushuzan continues to defy Mike.  Can he trick his way to 8 again?  Don't count on it.  The only other rikishi worth mentioning here is M3 Takamisakari, who is on the brink as a joi mainstay.  This will be a defining basho for him.

 

In the M4-M6 slots we have three that are ranked too high to win and three that have a good chance to climb.  It's too hot in the kitchen for M4 Toki, M5 Kotoryu and M6 Jumonji, while M4 Tamanoshima, M5 Tosanoumi and M6 Buyuzan are good enough to crank out majority wins.

 

Rikishi worth mentioning between M7-M9 are M7 Hokutoriki, who is capable but inconsistent; Kaiho, who should out-maneuver opponents at this level; and Asasekiryu, who has yet to shine as expected.  Gojoro is the garbage rikishi here; watch out for some super cheap wins.

 

M10-M12 has some yo-yo guys who shoot back and forth between Juryo and Makuuchi (Otsukasa, Asanowaka, Tochisakae, Kasuganishiki).  Of these, Tochisakae wins biggest when down in Juryo so he may have the most staying power.  The remaining two, M10 Iwakiyama and M12 Kasugao, should be able to throw their weight around at this level and kachikoshi with relative ease.

 

In the last group, M13-M15, three rikishi should do well, two will probably fall to Juryo and one is a huge question mark.  M13 Wakanoyama will put his head down go about his business winning 8 or more, M14 Ushiomaru should be okay for 8 in his second try in Makuuchi and M15 Tamakasuga, coming off a sparkling Juryo yusho in May, showed he still belongs and is in prime position to put up similar numbers in Nagoya.  Aogiyama and Kinkaiyama will struggle to avoid demotion.  And the question mark?  Kotomitsuki, of course.  He is risking his career because he doesn't want to be demoted to Juryo.  Why not heal more thoroughly, then tear through Juryo like Tamakasuga did?  Instead, he'll probably be nursing painful elbows for the rest of his career.

 

Yusho:  Asashoryu, 14-1

Shukunsho: Miyabiyama, 9-6

Kantosho:  Buyuzan, 10-5

Ginosho:  None

 

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