Mid-Aki Basho 2018 Review – Musashikuni, Wakaichiro, and Other Lower-Division Sumo Wrestlers

We are now seven days through the Aki Basho 2018!  This means that we are almost halfway done and starting to see how things are shaking out.  In the Makuuchi division, most of the top rikishi (sumo wrestlers) are putting up stellar records, including Hakuho (yokozuna, 7-0), Kakuryu (yokozuna, 7-0), Kisenosato (yokozuna, 6-1), Goeido (ozeki, 6-1), Takayasu (ozeki, 7-0), Tochinoshin (ozeki, 5-2), and Mitakeumi (sekiwake, 6-1).  Some of the lower-ranked rikishi are even doing extremely well, such as Hokutofuji (9 east, 7-0) and Ryuden (13 east, 6-1).  I could see any of these rikishi winning it all, although I would still bet on Hakuho before anyone else.

Of course, Musashikuni and Wakaichiro are not in the top division, so they don’t compete against any of these names.  Nevertheless, their bouts have been really exciting.  In this post, I’ll discuss their performances, process, and what to expect for the second half of the Aki Basho 2018.  I’ll also note some other interesting lower-division story-lines for this basho.  If you’d like to see anything else, please contact me at NorthAmericanSumo@Gmail.com.


Musashikuni Mamu

Musashikuni has been performing very well, and he currently has a 2-1 record.  I’ve been very impressed with his composure and skillful execution of his game-plans.  It seems that Musashikuni has went into every match with a strategy and tried his best to execute his strategy.  In the first two matches, this really paid off for Musashikuni. . .but in the third match, it seems that his adherence to the game-plan backfired.  Below is some information about his matches, followed by video links.

Opponent

Ranking

Current Record

Result

Method

Hokaho
Kosaku

43 East

2-2

Win!

Kimedashi

Obamaumi
Koki

41 West

1-2

Win!

Yorikiri

Tsushimanada
Masamitsu

43 West

4-0

Loss

Oshidashi

Link to match against Hokaho: https://youtu.be/o2tBQI5vWCg?t=21m54s

Link to match against Obamaumi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUQP5dai1hc

Link to match against Tsushimanada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiwT6eEMLdI

As seen in these videos, Musashikuni had a very clear and dedicated push-oriented gameplan in the first two matches.  He came out of the gate moving forward, and nothing was going to stop him.  I really like this version of Musashikuni, and it usually works very well for him.  In his third match, he switched gears and became very slap-down and pull-oriented.  To be honest, I am a fan of this too.  I think that rikishi should change-up their game-plans when needed, especially to prevent themselves from becoming too predictable. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t play out well for Musashikuni.

After an initial thrust, Musashikuni went for an ineffective slap-down.  When that didn’t work, he took a few steps back and went for an ineffective pull-down.  When that didn’t work, he tried to take a few steps back again, but he had ran out of room.  With nothing else to do, he tried for a final, leaping pull-down.  Instead of throwing his opponent down, he leaped off the dohyo, crashing onto the other rikishi below.  After a collective gasp from the audience, he emerged unscathed. . .at least, I hope that he is unscathed.

I believe that this is only a temporary setback for Musashikuni.  As long as he did not get injured in the fall, I think he will bounce back in his fourth match.  I am very excited to see what his final record will be.  I previously predicted a 4-3 record, and I think this is still a good guess. . .As long as he is safer in his upcoming matches!


Wakaichiro Ken

Wakaichiro started off the basho very cold, losing his first three matches.  Before this basho, Wakaichiro had never even lost his first two matches before, so this basho will be a true test of Wakaichiro’s resilience and whether he can bounce back from adversity.

Wakaichiro may have already started bouncing back, as he won his fourth match of the basho.  His current record is now 1-3.  Not good, but it gives hope that he can still advance in the ranks. . .or try to not fall too far.  Below is some information about his matches, followed by video links.

Opponent

Ranking

Current Record

Result

Method

Rao
Nozomu

77 East

2-1

Loss

Tsukiotoshi

Kaiseijo
Toshiki

76 West

2-1

Loss

Okuridashi

Amanishiki
Mitsugu

73 West

1-3

Loss

Yorikiri

Hokutoo
Toshiki

69 West

0-4

Win!

Isamiashi

Link to match against Rao: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjboC2yt_SA

Link to match against Kaiseijo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kbYgIpF8Ok

Link to match against Amanishiki: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q4PBbZxqUs

Link to match against Hokutoo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-dHolXT5Uw

In the pre-basho preview, I commented that Wakaichiro sometimes has the tendency for over-movements.  It almost seemed like Wakaichiro read the post and decided to lean into our criticism for his first match!  Wakaichiro spun around not once, not twice, but three times in his first match.  Rao is a skilled competitor, so maybe Wakaichiro thought he had to go all or nothing.  Regardless, it didn’t work.

In Wakaichiro’s subsequent matches, however, he got down to business.  He had a really good approach to his second and third matches, but it didn’t pay off.  Wakaichiro executed a solid gameplan in both, almost winning, but it just wasn’t in the cards for him.  His fourth match went much better, and he was able to pick up his first win of the basho.  While the camera angle in the video above doesn’t quite catch it, Wakaichiro was skillfully able to keep his feet in the circle while his opponent took a final step outside.

Whether Wakaichiro receives a kachi-koshi or not, I think this basho will be an extremely good learning experience for him.  He is clearly having matches where he tries to execute a gameplan, but his opponent either has a counter or just a better gameplan.  More matches like these will only sharpen his abilities.  While I am unsure whether Wakaichiro will meet my prior prediction of a 4-3 record in this basho, I am more excited to see his development after this basho.


Other Rikishi

While there are many lower-division rikishi to watch, I will only note two here.

Ura Kazuki is a former makuuchi competitor, making it all the way to a rank of four before having a severe injury.  After sitting out for a year, Ura made his return to the sandanme division.  Many people were expecting him to pick up an easy yusho, but Ura showed a little ring-rust in his second match.  This caused him to lose to the experienced opponent, and he now has a 2-1 record.  I think he will probably finish with a 6-1 record, but this return basho has already demonstrated that his ascent back to the makuuchi division won’t be as easy as many believed.

I’ve had my eye on Hoshoryu Tomokatsu since the last basho.  He is currently ranked Makushita 56 after only four bashos (Aki being his fifth). In those four bashos, he went 3-1, 6-1, 7-0, and 6-1.  Clearly, he is going to be a top-level competitor sooner rather than later.  In the Aki basho, he is currently 3-0.  I highly recommend finding clips of his performances, as they are extremely entertaining.  He is a little undersized for a rikishi (236 lbs/107 kg), but he is extremely fierce!

Lastly, don’t forget to follow NorthAmericanSumo.com on Twitter for live updates of the Aki Basho 2018!

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