Hatsu 2020 Day Five Recap
There had to be absolutely no one who had these three as the yusho leaders after five days (or any days, really.) Just two months ago at the Aki basho, Shodai, Kagayaki, and Terustuyoshi had 3-12, 6-9, and 4-11 records, respectively. They've remained unbeaten at Hatsu by focusing on what they do best. Shodai has taken his reactive style to a less chaotic place and thought of counters before he's lost. Kagayaki has kept his base wide and parried most attacks. Terutsuyoshi launches his body into his opponents' upper chest.
That's been good enough so far, but it's still extremely difficult to imagine these three staying in the yusho race for the whole tournament. In particular, all three are going to face stiffer competition fairly soon.
This grouping has more likely yusho contenders, although there are still surprises. Takakeisho, with both Yokozuna withdrawing, is now the top ranked man still competing. Endo and Hokutofuji have had some strong recent performances and even been in Sanyaku in the last few basho. Still, Endo's double-kinboshi is significant, and Hokutofuji has similarly taken a wrecking ball to the upper ranks. They've also got one loss after facing what should be the toughest stretch of their schedules. Interestingly, Takakeisho's only loss is to Hokutofuji. Endo's only loss is to Takakeisho. Hokutofuji's only loss is to Shodai, who's in the group above.
Yutakayama and Tokushoryu have been pleasant surprises in other parts of the basho. Yutakayama's rejuvenation continues on in Hatsu, as he seems to be rising the ranks. Tokushoryu has just been the kind of smart veteran who isn't beating himself, which has worked quite well at the foot of Makuuchi.
While it's obviously preferable to be 3-2 rather than 2-3, it's hard to say this group is doing so much better than the one immediately below it. With different luck and a foot placement here and there, they could be on the wrong side of .500. Of course, they are the same distance away from 4-1.
If anyone might be disappointed so far, it would be Asanoyama and Mitakeumi. Asanoyama probably felt he could have been in yusho contention for Hatsu. Mitakeumi wanted to rebound strongly to get back in Sanyaku. They both aren't far from those goals, but they haven't done quite what they would have laid out as the ideal basho.
The pack in the middle of the Banzuke are holding steady and done enough to be able to threaten more in the rest of the basho. The most intriguing might be the four at the bottom of the ranks. When you're ranked below Maegashira 12, staying above water is key as it means staying away from demotion to Juryo. Kotoshogiku wants to stave off that possibility for as long as possible. Azumaryu and Tochiozan don't want to yo-yo. Kiribayama, the basho's debutante for Makuuchi, is looking to establish himself as a top-division wrestler.
No one in this pack is quite needing to be in panic mode, although they all seem to have had their moments. Takayasu needs 10 wins to get back to Ozeki, a proposition which he's made tougher on himself, although the Nokozuna situation helps. Abi likewise will want to remain in Sanyaku, but needs to have a good winning streak.
Most everyone else at 2 wins is doing well with hanging around even. Tochinoshin being able to fight every day is a positive, much less being competitive. Everyone else has been a mixed bag, with matches largely being determined by opponents and favorable matchups. The sheer volume of rikishi at 3 or 2 wins means that Hatsu is likely to be a bit of a meat grinder, with everyone pushing towards the middle. That could be welcome news for the likes of Kaisei, who might go down with anything worse than 7-8.
Ignore the Yokozuna, as they are entitled to withdraw from basho, keep their rank, and come back same as always next time out. The real trouble here is for Goeido, who is a kadoban Ozeki. That means he needs 8 wins to keep his rank. An Ozeki's first five days are supposed to be his easiest. While he won't get Hakuho or Kakuryu, he still must face Abi, Takayasu, Asanoyama, and Takakeisho, probably as his closing stretch in some form.
Meisei, Onosho, and Ikioi got their first win on Day Five, leaving the basho with no winless rikishi still competing. They haven't looked good, but they have now shown they can get a win. Take that as another sign of this basho's even playing field. Meanwhile, Chiyotairyu and Chiyomaru, the two similar sounding and similar shaped men from Kokonoe-beya, have been out of sorts all tournament. Yet those two also can be tough matchups on their day.
Kotoyuki had to withdraw before the tournament and will remain here until after it's all done.