- Fantasy Basho
Kyushu 2021 Day Fifteen
Oshidashi. An astonishing six matches ended with the simple frontal push out, including the win by Terunofuji over Takakeisho at the very end.
Match of the Day
Maegashira #4 East Takarafuji versus Maegashira #5 West Hoshoryu
Neither man in this matchup could do more than soften their losing records, but they went after it well anyway. Veteran Takarafuji locked up quickly trying to contain the young and crafty Hoshoryu. That just meant Hoshoryu kept sticking his right leg between Takarafuji's feet to disrupt his stance. He didn't trip the older rikishi, but Hoshoryu got him moving and that allowed him to unleash the uwatenage for the win.
Terunofuji could have taken it easy, and he still would have lifted the Emperor's Cup. Instead, he went toe-to-toe with Takakeisho in an ugly shoving battle. That should have favored the Ozeki, including the fact they backed off and had to reset their match. Instead, Terunofuji got the better of the closest thing he has to a rival right now. That made his championship a zensho yusho, the first undefeated tournament of his career.
Terunofuji will turn 30 tomorrow, and sumo is often unkind to men in their third decade. On top of that, Terunofuji has one of the worst injury records of any rikishi. He acknowledged he will never be 100% in his yusho interview, but also said he can't worry about age or his health. They certainly haven't impacted his 2021. He went 67-13, with the most wins in the top division and four yusho and two jun-yusho. Oh, and he got elevated to Yokozuna. Sumo enters 2022 with Terunofuji as the unquestioned top rikishi.
Takakeisho's 12-3 jun-yusho didn't come close to threatening an Emperor's Cup, but it was a nice achievement after a few injury plagued tournaments. He also gave Terunofuji all he had in the final match of the basho. That will make him the biggest threat to Terunofuji through the next year. Shodai has also shown that he can keep his Ozeki rank, and Mitakeumi is capable of double-digits as a Sekiwake. That means Ozeki-hood isn't out of the realm of possibility.
The real intriguing group are the slightly younger rikishi who may be able to take their sumo up a level. That should be headlined by Takanosho, who achieved 11 wins and a fighting spirit prize. He's 27 and should make his move now, but that's the kind of sumo that will make him competitive in Sanyaku. Then there's the raft of guys who still need to make a mark in Sanyaku, but have been uneven. That would include Wakatakakage, Kiribayama, Meisei, Hoshoryu, and former yusho winner Daieisho. They'll all keep sumo interesting through the next year.
But the frame of reference will be Terunofuji. With Hakuho's retirement, the shadow he cast over everyone else in sumo seemed to go away. Instead, it is now Terunofuji's shadow that is over everyone else. He is the favorite for January, and will be the favorite until someone proves they have overtaken him. Age and injuries loom to keep his run short overall, but for the moment this is Terunofuji's era.