Natsu 2022 Day One
Updated: May 8
Public League Leaderboard
Katasukashi. Terutsuyoshi should get bonus points for not only performing the "under shoulder swing down" to beat Kotoshoho, but using the whole dohyo to execute it.
Match of the Day
Ozeki #1 East Mitakeumi versus Maegashira #1 East Takayasu
This was exciting coming in, and the two half-Filipino veterans delivered. Takayasu stalled Mitakeumi's bulldozer sumo at the tachiai, but then never got a great grip. Mitakeumi, meanwhile, pinned Takayasu's left arm to his body. All that meant was the two began moving around the dohyo. Both kept their feet, both maneuvered well, and both changed momentum. That awkward grip was the difference as Mitakeumi was able to take Takayasu out.
A great general rule or Day One of any basho is to not overreact. There are fourteen more matches to go, and there is often ring rust all over the place. (Hoshoryu and Endo seemed to slip into each other, and then Endo won by not falling as much.) There are also just bad matchups for certain rikishi, which may not reflect the future. (Okinoumi did a good job of not allowing Tochinoshin to do anything with his left hand.) Yet Day One of the Natsu 2022 basho was full of things that maybe deserve an overreaction.
Upsets abounded in Makuuchi. The headline will be that Terunofuji lost to Daieisho. No Kinboshi, since Daieisho is a Komusubi this time out. That's still a big win. It also won't quiet any worries about Terunofuji's health. But equally as notable is that Takakeisho and Shodai both lost as well. Takakeisho had no ability to push back the up-and-coming Kotonowaka, who had his typical wide base and efficiently showed the Ozeki the edge of the dohyo. Shodai actually did his defensive tachiai fairly well, but Kiribayama snaked his long arms inside and got a grip on the front of the Ozeki's mawashi. That was it for that match.
A Yokozuna and two Ozeki sitting at 0-1 is fairly stunning, even if each match felt like it could produce an upset. Even other matches that seemed like mismatches based on the previous basho performance went the other way. Midorifuji dominated Juryo while Ichiyamamoto struggled to stay in Makuuchi in March, but Ichiyamamoto overwhelmed Midorifuji. Meisei beat Oho although he looked hopeless in March while Oho claimed a Makuuchi promotion. Okinoumi overcame Tochinoshin, although Okinoumi was showing his age in Haru while Tochinoshin looked revitalized.
Predicting a full day of sumo is difficult (and it's notable that no one in the Public League on Fantasizr had a perfect day and won eight points.) Confidently asserting what will happen on the dohyo for an individual match is basically impossible. The lightning quick nature of sumo means that the smallest mistakes get punished, and the difference between a win and a loss is down to a matter of milliseconds as both men fall to the clay. Terunofuji could win his remaining matches for a yusho, Takakeisho and Shodai rack up 10 wins, and the basho looks like it's supposed to.
But don't ignore the warning signs, either. Terunofuji wasn't moving as well as he can, and his leg problems will always be there. Takakeisho's entire approach is based on knocking back an opponent, and he didn't do that. Shodai never had an answer to Kiribayama, which may mean he is lost on the dohyo again. You could squint and say Mitakeumi didn't have a great match. Most importantly, Kotonowaka and Kiribayama proved the youngsters can do damage against the best, and they get more chances to beat Sanyaku opponents starting on Day Two.