Natsu 2019 Day Fourteen Recap
A simple glance at the Day Fourteen torikumi showed that much of what was at stake for the whole basho could be decided in the last two matches. Ozeki Goeido squared off with tournament leader and Maegashira 8 in a rather atypical semi-main event for Day Fourteen, while a Yokozuna-Sekiwake matchup between Kakuryu and Tochinoshin got the musubi no ichiban. After Asanoyama's controversial win over Tochinoshin on Day Thirteen thanks to a mono-ii, these two would determine if Asanoyama would win the yusho and if Tochinoshin would get his crucial tenth win to return to Ozeki in July.
The action leading to the final two matches was good, but the day seemed to be crescendoing. Mitakeumi achieved his crucial 8th win and kachi-koshi with a determined effort over Takarafuji. Ichinojo and Ryuden got caught in the kind of stalemate the giant Mongolian favors, but Ryuden worked his way to a yorikiri win. In an upset, Shodai withstood Takayasu's charges until the Ozeki slipped. It all seemed to presage that the last two matches would be interesting as well.
Asanoyama and Goeido delivered. Goeido, more known for power and efficiency, immediately took the smart strategic move of blocking Asanoyama's left-hand grip on his mawashi. The problem with this approach was it put the match more firmly in Asanoyama's comfort zone of yotsu-zumo. Despite the Maegashira's grappling prowess, the match was an even back and forth. Both men got backed into the bales at times, and both attempted throws with little success. Then, seeming to get a second wind on realizing this could be the yusho, Asanoyama dug in and escorted Goeido outside the ring.
The musubi no ichiban now was set up to possibly decide the yusho. If Tochinoshin could claim victory, he would get his 10th win and the Ozeki rank, while also spoiling Kakuryu's chance at the yusho. Always serious on the dohyo, Tochinoshin looked even more peeved than usual. Considering his Day Thirteen, that was understandable. He also needed to be determined as he walked onto the dohyo having a 3-23 record against Kakuryu. As they looked at each other, neither one seemed to want to put his hand down.
Then it was over in a flash. Kakuryu was face down on the clay in seconds. Possibly a henka, although Tochinoshin barely moved. He did successfully slapped down Kakuryu from a sideways angle. The Georgian went slightly to his left and remained fairly upright, a typical approach for him to land his outside left grip. Nothing was grabbed. Instead, Kakuryu was too far forward, leaving Tochinoshin a remarkably easy win.
Asanoyama is your yusho winner for the Natsu Basho. That also means he is the first yusho winner of the Reiwa era, garnering an extra note in the history books. The controversy from Day Thirteen shouldn't overshadow what is an incredible championship. Asanoyama is 25 and has always shown glimpses. This was the tournament he finally put it all together. If the consistency stays, he is a future star. If he never mounts the dohyo again, he's still a champion.
Even if the yusho is settled, and we know Tochinoshin will return to Ozeki, there are plenty of things to follow on Day 15.
For one, the Sanyaku situation for Nagoya is completely wild. Tochinoshin's re-promotion means there will be four Ozeki. It also vacates a Sekiwake slot. Ichinojo won't keep his, either, with a paltry win total after going kyujo for a few days. Mitakeumi got his eighth win on Day Fourteen, so presumably he'll bump back up to Sekiwake. After that, it's hard to say. Asanoyama's double digit wins and yusho should get him a Sanyaku rank. If he beats Mitakeumi on Day Fifteen, he should probably jump above everyone else. Tamawashi also seems almost assured to be there having gotten ten wins already at Maegashira 3. Whether they'll be Sekiwake or Komusubi is up to the Banzuke writers. The last slot could be either Abi's or Ryuden's, and if one wins and the other loses, we'll have an answer. If they both win, Ryuden got the better of Abi on Day Two, but Abi has the same record from a higher rank. That's probably Abi's.
At the other end of the promotion-relegation issue, Ishiura's ninth loss makes it clear he is going back to Juryo along with Chiyoshoma and Tokushoryu. Whether a fourth rikishi joins them is unclear. If Terutsuyoshi wins against Daieisho, he sits at 7-8, which might save him. Helping his cause is the fact that only three men in Juryo look promoteable. Takagenji has been destroying everyone with a 13-1 record so far at Juryo 2 East, Toyonoshima's effective 8 wins at Juryo 1 East guarantee promotion, and Kotoyuki's 10 wins down at Juryo 4 can't be ignored. Everyone else is middling at best.
Finally, six rikishi are still on the kachi-koshi-make-koshi line at 7-7. No one will go up or down too much, but they'd all rather have the winning record. Interestingly, they can all be paired off on Day Fifteen. Shohozan and Enho fight in a styles clash early, followed by Chiyomaru and Onosho in a power tachiai battle and Sadanoumi and Tomokaze see whose fundamentals will get an eighth win. Interestingly, if Tomokaze loses, that will be his first losing record in professional sumo.
The real intrigue is done, but we've still got another day of real sumo. That's always good.