September 2017, Day 15, Harumafuji v Goeido (Playoff)

OK, now we’re at the final match of the day – winner take all, loser goes home. Well, they both go home. But only one of them goes home with the trophy. Fifteen days, 280-or-so bouts in the top division, it all ends now. Barring a meteor strike that destroys the building, one of these two will be champion. Love it. The actual bout is mercilessly quick. Harumafuji hits hard, his head landing underneath Goeido’s chin. Goeido reacts by trying to pull down on the Yokozuna, but Harumafuji isn’t anywhere near overextended enough for this to work. Harumafuji is attached to Goeido’s torso like a leech, and he walks the Ozeki over the edge to disappointment. Standing outside the straw bales, Harumafuji pats Goeido’s back, a classy display of sympathy for the loser. But congratulations to the Yokozuna, who wins his ninth top-division championship!

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September 2017, Day 15, Goeido v Harumafuji

Day 15. Final bout. Everything on the line for Goeido. If he beats Yokozuna Harumafuji, he’ll win his second championship, exactly one year after winning his first. If he loses to Harumafuji, they’ll finish with equal 11-4 records and will need one more bout to determine the champion. Harumafuji starts a step back from the white shikiri-sen, giving himself a few extra centimeters to build up speed before slamming into Goeido. But Goeido holds his ground, and pushes Harumafuji back, fighting the Yokozuna’s arms. Harumafuji has an excellent low position, and slings his left arm up to slam it home on Goeido’s belt. Goeido tries to fight it, but when he reaches over with his right arm he lets Harumafuji wrap him up with a smothering double-underarm, and Harumafuji pounces. Goeido is too far out of position, and Harumafuji shoves him out. They’ll get a few minutes break before meeting right back here for the deciding match.

September 2017, Day 15, Mitakeumi v Yoshikaze

Yoshikaze has his eight wins already, and Mitakeumi wants what he’s got. Some see the higher winning percentage of 7-7 wrestlers on the final day as evidence of match-fixing (or at least an unspoken code of generosity among wrestlers), but I think much of it can be explained simply by the extra motivation brought about by the desperation of a wrestler in that position. Either way, Mitakeumi barely squeaks by Yoshikaze today, relying on a last-ditch pull on the back of the head to drive Yoshikaze into the dirt at the edge of the ring. The match leading up to that is full of great sumo, with Yoshikaze looking sharper and stronger than Mitakeumi. But there can be only one winner, and Yoshikaze eats clay first.

September 2017, Day 15, Tamawashi v Takakeisho

Tamawashi is supremely motivated today, not wanting to drop his eighth loss and demotion from his elevated Komusubi rank, but young M5 Takakeisho has other plans. Takakeisho hits hard at the tachiai and starts slamming away with sharp tsuppari thrusts, driving Tamawashi back to the tawara in short order. One last mighty shove sends Tamawashi over the edge to a losing record, and Takakeisho’s so in the zone he finishes a few shadow shoves against the air just to wind down. With a record of 9-6 and a kinboshi win over Yokozuna Harumafuji, Takakeisho earns the Shukun-sho, or Outstanding Performance Award.

September 2017, Day 15, Takarafuji v Kotoshogiku

Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku hasn’t had double-digit wins in over a year, but he puts it all together this tournament to finish an impressive 10-5. It was only January of last year (seems like ages, though) that he won the championship at 14-1, but two tournaments later he dropped out due to injury and has endured a precipitous decline since then. Nice to see him back in fighting shape. Takarafuji puts up some tough resistance, but ‘Giku keeps his feet under him until he finds an opening for the slick kotenage (arm lock throw). Takarafuji has a fine tournament as well, finishing at 9-6.

September 2017, Day 15, Tokushoryu v Kagayaki

Man, we’re getting treated to a plethora of great throws on the last day of the tournament! Both Tokushoryu (3-11) and Kagayaki (4-10) have terrible records, but that doesn’t stop them from giving it the gusto. Kagayaki seems to get the upper hand at the tachiai, steadily driving Tokushoryu back towards the edge of the ring. But Tokushoryu’s heels hit the straw bales and he digs deep to fight back. Turning to his right, he puts his left leg against Kagayaki’s inner thigh and lifts, breaking Kagayaki’s balance. Holding onto Kagayaki’s left arm with his right, and using a good underhook on the other side, Tokushoryu continues to press with his leg until Kagayaki goes completely over. Kakenage (hooking inner thigh throw) for the impressive win. Both wrestlers finish the tournament at 4-11, with Tokushoryu likely falling to Juryo from the M14 slot, and Kagayaki having enough buffer at M8 to end up at the bottom of the top division.

September 2017, Day 15, Chiyoshoma v Yutakayama

Newbie Yutakayama gets rag-dolled by the speedy Chiyoshoma, who leaps forward for the deep, deep belt grip on the right side. Using Yutakayama’s momentum off the initial charge against him, Chiyoshoma cranks hard with his right hand and Yutakayama leaves the ground, floating through the air like an autumn leaf before hitting the ground not at all like an autumn leaf. Uwatenage (overarm throw) win for Chiyoshoma, who is happy to get his eighth win. Yutakayama, finishing the tournament at 4-11, will almost certainly drop back down to Juryo next tournament to regroup and hopefully get some more experience.