Kyushu 2021 Day Eight
Can a slip be a maneuver? It sure seemed like everyone was sliding left and right and eventually on their faces on Day Eight.
Match of the Day
Komusubi East Ichinojo versus Ozeki West Takakeisho
This was a classic contrast of styles, where Ichinojo would be favored in a belt match and Takakeisho would be favored in a shoving match. It began to Takakeisho's favor, with the Ozeki knocking back the huge Mongolian. Ichinojo then managed to plant his feet and grab Takakeisho, making it his kind of match. Remarkably, Takakeisho was then able to keep with a grappling stalemate. That is not his kind of match, and after a long while Ichinojo was able to throw Takakeisho aside and over. Except that a monoii was called, because Ichinojo had grabbed Takakeisho's hair much earlier in the match. Final result was a Takakeisho victory by Hansoku, or foul.
Day Eight was not filled with good sumo. Lots of rikishi were trying maneuvers that backfired or seemed completely caught off guard by their opponents' tactics. Tochinoshin attempted his weird half-step and thrust henka, but Akua read it perfectly. Terutsuyoshi went too low and gave Kotoeko the easiest slap down win possible. Tobizaru handed Tamawashi his second loss by kicking his leg out from under him. That was the highlight for much of the day.
Impressive, if not always exciting, sumo came with the Sanyaku matches. Kiribayama got off his losing streak by repelling Daieisho's tsuppari. Meisei worked through Takarafuji and pulled off a victory. Mitakeumi had the easiest looking match, with a straight ahead yorikiri against Okinoumi. Yet the way he bottled up Okinoumi may have been the most impressive showing on the day and is further proof he is in fine form. Even Shodai, uneven this basho, displayed confident sumo in beating Myogiryu.
The two leaders were then on the dohyo. Takakeisho had impressive moments but seemed to lose. A mono-ii saved him and his perfect record. It was a completely fair result, as Ichinojo did have a handful of hair and should have been disqualified. Takakeisho still got swallowed up and thrown out and over. Everyone needs luck during a successful basho, and that was Takakeisho's first sign of vulnerability this November. Still undefeated, but not invulnerable.
That left Terunofuji. Endo looked to have his approach secured from the start, getting his hands in place for his signature front of the mawashi grip. Terunofuji just blew away his hands, and ended up pushing back Endo. The match was simple, straightforward, and effective. Terunofuji continues to look like the favorite, particularly because his sumo is in the best form. Although Takakeisho and Terunofuji are both undefeated, Terunofuji has been more impressive.
Yet the real lesson of the Ichinojo-Takakeisho match may be that it doesn't always matter. Ichinojo seemed to have done exactly what he needed to against Takakeisho's trademark and best sumo. Not only did he survive the tsuppari, but he managed to get a grip on the Ozeki. In the end, he still lost, because he had enough of Takakeisho's hair. Those small moments are what shape sumo matches and tournaments, and we have seven more days for those to crop up.