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  • Fantasy Basho

Hatsu 2024 Day Two




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Notable Maneuvers

Uwatenage. After withstanding a furious tsuppari opening from Gonoyama, Kotonowaka seemed like he would wrap Gonyama for a very functional yorikiri. When Gonoyama showed he would resist that, Kotonowaka unleashed an extremely forceful over-arm throw to send Gonoyama off the dohyo.


Match of the Day

01 Yokozuna East Terunofuji versus 09 Maegashira #1 East Wakamotoharu

The good vibes surrounding the Yokozuna ended pretty quickly. Wakamotoharu got the best of the tachiai, although Terunofuji was able to stand his ground. Then the Maegashira got the Yokozuna on the ropes. Terunofuji got the match back to the middle of the dohyo, but all he could manage after that was a stalemate. Wakamotoharu shifted grips, went for a leg trip, and seemed to be trying what he could. Terunofuji, worryingly, had nothing. After a long match, Wakamotoharu was able to get Terunofuji backwards and out. That's Wakamotoharu's first career Kinboshi and a worry for Terunofuji.


Recap

The headline has to be about the Yokozuna in trouble, but the context is that it's not just about his loss to Wakamotoharu. He is in trouble, but if Wakamotoharu can stalemate him like that it's an even more ominous warning sign. Kirishima, Hoshoryu, Takakeisho, Kotonowaka, and Daieisho all look strong and more than capable of winning the yusho in their form over the first two days. The men directly below the Yokozuna could easily beat a banged up and much less than 100% Terunofuji.


That is, of course, if they do face him this basho. One of the privileges of being a Yokozuna is that Terunofuji can pull out without losing rank. That privilege also comes with the expectation that he won't lose too much. One loss to a Maegashira #1 should put everyone on alert, but does not guarantee he will lose again. Maybe this match helps Terunofuji pick up on a change he must make with his current shape. He's a Yokozuna for more than his physical gifts.


Yet his physical gifts are clearly betraying him. He is not moving well, and the notorious strength that was the consistent feature of his sumo doesn't come as easily. He manhandled Ura with one arm on Day One, but a bigger rikishi coming full bore at him saw him do little on Day Two. He isn't getting a breather, either. He faces the top men on the Banzuke, and everyone is gunning for him because he is a Yokozuna. And over the next few days, he will see Maegashira wanting a kinboshi. Day Three brings Abi, who is 0-2 but is also guaranteed to give the Yokozuna a wealth of slaps to the neck and face.


The biggest threats for the yusho are the Ozeki, who have all won at least one yusho in the past year and hold sumo's second-highest rank. They are also blasting away competitors over the first two days. Kirishima is swatting aside veterans. Takakeisho is meeting everyone head on with no tricks or weaknesses. Hoshoryu is displaying a strength that he has only recently acquired. On Day Two, he grabbed Midorifuji to stop the match from getting wild and then shoved him out hard. The Sekiwake pair of Kotonowaka and Daieisho aren't pushovers, either.


The Yokozuna is in trouble, but recent basho haven't looked like their top rankers would be so strong in awhile. That doesn't rule out a surprising Maegashira yusho run, but it is an uphill battle. Onosato, in particular, is looking like he's already too good for lower Maegashira on his Makuuchi debut. But he needs to get by all the other Maegashira first before he even gets a sniff of the Sanyaku gauntlet. The top of the Banzuke also avoids each other for a few days, so the story will continue to be Terunofuji's performance. It is probably best to hope for the best, but expect the worst.

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