- Fantasy Basho
Haru 2022 Day One
Utchari. Somehow, Chiyotairyu, veteran master of "run right into you as hard as possible with no plan B," won with the backward pivot throw after it sure looked like Kotoeko was going to force him out easily. Utchari is always kind of fun, but especially from Chiyotairyu of all people.
Match of the Day
Maegashira #6 East Hokutofuji versus Maegashira #6 West Kotonowaka
Kotonowaka did a very good job of breaking up Hokutofuji's inside shove tachiai, but then Hokutofuji stalled any of Kotonowaka's momentum. That was a much better situation for Kotonowaka than Hokutofuji. Kotonowaka doesn't need momentum. Hokutofuji kept working from an awkward semi-stalemate to get the match moving again. Kotonowaka's wide base allowed him to control the movement, and it was a simple yorikiri in the end.
Day One is the best time for wild over-interpretation in sumo, but Haru is stacked enough with competitors and enough things are on the line that each match needs to matter. When there are 15 matches to decide anything, each match always matters. In this particular basho, everyone needs to be on their toes. The margin for error is extremely small.
The two big upsets on Day One were Onosho's win over Abi and Daieisho's win over Shodai. Onosho withstood Abi's two-handed thrust to the neck and then just turned it around on the back-to-back Jun-Yusho man. Abi has a chance at a yusho if he fights like he has recently, but he is already one loss behind Terunofuji, Takakeisho, and Mitakeumi. Daieisho just dominated an increasingly hapless Shodai. Shodai is said to be dealing with long COVID symptoms, which at least would provide an explanation to his inability to put up any resistance. Shodai needs 8 wins to remain Ozeki, and he'll be best positioned to have most of them before the second Monday of this basho.
Terunofuji, Takakeisho, and Mitakeumi winning are somewhat expected, but they all looked good. Terunofuji did not allow Sankyaku debutant Hoshoryu to get to his side, just catching Hoshoryu's mawashi with his left hand and muscling him out. Takakeisho fought a Ura who did not want to go head on, but kept at it until he could square him up and push him out. Mitakeumi had trouble with Ichinojo trying to use his length initially, but regrouped and handled the massive Mongolian. Nothing about Day One suggests these three are not able to compete for the yusho.
That's the most that can be said for the first day of a basho, who still looks like they may stick around. What happened further down the Banzuke is even less informative on Day One. That doesn't mean there wasn't good sumo. Kiribayama moved Endo around in an entertaining way. Takayasu did his stalling sumo to beat Okinoumi with a nice throw. Kotoshoho outmuscled Chiyomaru to announce his return to Makuuchi. All three of those men could keep it up, but it's worth eyeing what they do on Day Two before making definitive claims.
There are also things that seem like mirages from Day One. Terutsuyoshi went for a leg grab, but Myogiryu was so far away he went down with an arm grab that is unlikely to be a repeatable maneuver. Chiyotairyu is almost certainly not going to consistently win if he only grapples opponents. Tochinoshin certainly can't build a winning basho if he only knocks people out, like he did to Akua. (Thank goodness Akua got up, indicating he just got hit backwards enough to go down.)
We'll know more about this basho after Day Two, but at least sumo is back.