Haru 2019 Day Fourteen Recap
With every rikishi having just one match, let's focus on what to watch for on senshuraku, or the final day, of the Haru basho in 2019. Here are the major storylines for Day Fifteen:
Only two men have any hope of winning the Emperor's Cup heading into the final day: Hakuho and Ichinojo. Both men are Mongolian and impressive physically, but otherwise totally different. If Hakuho wins, he will get his 42nd Emperor's Cup with his 15th zensho yusho, or undefeated championship. Those are both records, but will simply add to records he already holds, along with career wins, top division wins, and wins as a Yokozuna. He is already the best ever, and a win tomorrow just adds to the already overwhelming evidence.
By contrast, Ichinojo is seeing a resurgence after some small disappointments at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. At 193 cm and 226 kg (6'4" and 498 lbs), he is a large men in a sport of behemoths. Sometimes, this has been a detriment, as he falls victim to his own momentum when pushed backwards. So far in Osaka, though, he's been agressive and strong, often slapping down opponents with such force when they come inside on him that it seems impossible someone could get him to touch dirt or be forced outside. Only Tochinoshin was able to do that to him during Haru.
The two will not face each other unless Ichinojo wins and Hakuho loses on Day Fifteen and we need a playoff. Ichinojo will see Daieisho, who at Maegashira 2 and 7-7 is the highest ranked available opponent without a losing record. Hakuho gets the traditional closing match against fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu.
In the third from last match on Day Fifteen, we have an Ozeki Title match. Tochinoshin, after withdrawing from the previous tournament with an injury, has been kadoban, or on probation. That means he needs 8 wins to keep his Ozeki rank. Takakeisho is on an Ozeki run after seeming to qualify after meeting the bare minimum of 33 wins in 3 tournaments during Hatsu. Instead, the Sumo Association said he didn't beat enough Ozeki or Yokozuna.
So the two face off on senshuraku, with Tochinoshin needing his eighth win still and Takakeisho sitting on just 33 wins and victories over Kakuryu and Takaysu but not Goeido and Hakuho. Chances are that the winner is Ozeki by May and the other stands at Sekiwake. If Tochinoshin loses, he'll be "Ozekiwake," a Sekiwake East who can return to Ozeki with 10 wins or more. If Takakeisho loses, he'll need 13 wins at Natsu to make Ozeki.
Sanyaku for Natsu
As mentioned above, the Tochinoshin-Takakeisho loser is guaranteed to be Sekiwake East. The Sanyaku rikishi below those two are already saddled with Make-koshi, or a losing record and guaranteed demotion. Tamawashi could fall from Sekiwake West to a Komusubi slot, but his 5-9 record might mean he falls out of the Sanyaku position. The Komusubi pair of Mitakeumi and Hokutofuji have already accumulated 8 losses and will be Maegashira in May.
Who replaces them? Ichinojo has already earned a return to the Sanyaku ranks with at least 13 wins and maybe 14 and an outside chance at Yusho over Hakuho from a playoff. Daieisho could get to 8 wins if he beats Ichinojo on Day Fifteen. Aoiyama has 11 wins but is at Maegashira 7. Chiyotairyu, Okinoumi, and Abi can get a winning record with wins in their final matches at Maegahira 5 East, Maegashira 6 East, and Maegashira 6 West, respectively. Just be glad you aren't responsible for making the Banzuke.
A whopping 8 rikishi are sitting at 7-7 going into their final match of the basho: Tochinoshin, Daieisho, Chiyotairyu, Okinoumi, Abi, Takarafuji, Asanoyama, and Chiyoshoma. Whether those men get a promotion or demotion in rank for Natsu depends on the outcome in their matches tomorrow. To make this more complicated, none of them are facing each other.
Juryo Promotion and Demotion
There are a bunch of rikishi with demotion to Juryo worthy records this basho. Ikioi has a 2-12 at Maegashira 9 West. Terustuyoshi is at 5-9 at Maegashira 14 East, while at Maegashira 14 West Toyonoshima has a 4-10 mark. Daishoho's record of 6-8 at Maegashira 16 East doesn't bode well. Chiyoshoma must win on Day Fifteen against Shohoxan to be safe. Yutakayama's 3-11 at Maegashira 15 West and Chiyonokuni's total kyujo because of knee surgery at Maegashira 12 probably guarantee demotion to the second division.
The thing is, only two Juryo wrestlers are clearly promotion worthy. Shimanoumi is sitting on 12 wins at Juryo 1 East, and Chiyomaru has 9 wins at Juryo 9 West. No one else is obviously coming up to Makuuchi. If Enho wins over Hidenoumi to get his 9th win on Day Fifteen, he will probably make his top division debut. Otherwise, it's a complete guess.
Some Fantasy Basho titles are so close that the extra points that come from the Special Prizes might determine everything. Quick refresher: there are three prizes, the Outstanding Performance, Fighting Spirit, and Technique Prizes. All three can be given or none can be given, while each prize can be given to two rikishi each. No Yokozuna or Ozeki can receive Special Prizes.
Ichinojo seems almost guaranteed to receive at least one and maybe two. The Technique prize would seem to belong to Kotoshogiku, except it basically never goes to former Ozeki. Aoiyama certainly deserves some consideration for his impressive win total. If Tomokaze secures a 10th win on Day Fifteen, he could easily be in line for a prize himself.
So much is still to play for that Day Fifteen is worth following as closely as possible.