To get fans ready for the Nagoya basho, Tachiai has covered the current Ozeki mess, the return of a former Ozeki, and what bouts the scheduler likely have in store for us on the two opening days. Now, let’s take a quick at some of the rikishi to watch who’ll be fighting in the second division. I am planning a second post that will preview lower divisions.
The top Juryo rank is occupied by two men who each came within a win of securing a post-suspension return to the top division. Ryuden, who violated COVID rules, sits at J1e, and 8 wins should all but guarantee a spot in Makuuchi for Aki. Hidenoumi, who got embroiled in gambling, is ranked J1w. Not only is he only the second rikishi in the last two decades unlucky enough to be stuck in Juryo after 8 wins at that rank, but to add insult to injury, he didn’t even get the expected minimal promotion to J1e, instead getting leapfrogged by Ryuden, whose 9 wins at J3w should have been equivalent in terms of banzuke placement. As the saying goes, if he didn’t have bad luck, he’d have none at all.
Rising star Atamifuji is at J6e, a career high, and a strong enough performance could land him in the top division after only two years in professional sumo and just in time for his 20th birthday. Lightweight fan favorite Enho, toiling in his 10th Juryo tournament after a 9-basho stint in Makuuchi, is, at J8w, closer to falling out of sekitori ranks than he is to a top-division return. So is lovable veteran Kaisei, J11e, who may or may not have a comeback in him depending on the state of his injured ankle. And I haven’t heard whether Enho’s stablemate Ishiura, J10w, who sat out the Natsu basho, will be back in fighting form in Nagoya.
Natsu sekitori debutant Tochimaru surprised us with an 8-7 kachi-koshi and will be fighting a bit higher up, at J11w. Just below him at J12e is much-touted Kitanowaka, who sat out the middle 6 days of Natsu with injury but came back to get the two wins he needed to stay in the division. And then we have three exciting new faces. J13e Oshoma makes his sekitori debut in just his 5th tournament after starting at Ms15TD in November and going 4-3, 5-2, 3-4, and 7-0 Y. On the West side we have Hakuho’s giant protégé Hokuseiho, whose two previous basho ranked in Juryo yielded exactly one bout—he sat out Aki 2021 due to COVID along with the rest of his heya, then got injured in the opening bout of Kyushu. Three straight 5-2 tournaments have brought him back to the sekitori ranks, and I hope that this time we get a real chance to see how he performs at this level. Last but not least, we have J14w Gonoyama (formerly Nishikawa), another collegiate star who debuted at Haru 2021 at Sd100TD, upset Ryuden to take the Makushita yusho in January, and hasn’t posted a losing record aside from one injury-marred 2-3-2 tournament. He is former Ozeki Goeido’s first big recruit. Who’ll be able to stay in the division and move up the banzuke? Tune in to find out!