Terunofuji Gunning for Quick Ozeki Promotion

According to Nikkan Sports, Terunofuji has expressed a desire for a rapid rise to Ozeki. Full of confidence from his 13-win Spring tournament, including a win over superzuna Hakuho, Terunofuji said that “When I go up [to Ozeki], I want to do it quickly. A slow rise doesn’t make sense.” The general guidelines for ozeki promotion are 33 wins over 3 tournaments. They’re also talking about a potentially faster rise if he’s able to win the next tournament or get at least 14 wins.

It should be noted that these guidelines are flexible as we saw with Goeido’s promotion last year. Goeido had 32 wins in the three tournaments prior to his ozeki promotion. The fact that he had two jun-yusho gave the Sumo Kyokai the impression that he could be promoted despite being one win shy of the 33 win mark. However, Goeido’s performance at the ozeki rank has been less than stellar. He’s already faced demotion and is so far yet to break 8 wins in four tries with a record of 29 wins and 31 losses. The period spanning Day 8-Day 12 has been particularly rough. Of the 20 bouts during those days, during these four tournaments, Goeido’s only managed 3 wins.

I note Goeido’s challenges because he faced a fairly long spell at sekiwake, 14 tournaments or more than 2 years at the rank. It’s now possible that Terunofuji can be promoted after just 2 tournaments at that rank and I doubt the Sumo Kyokai is eager to have more lackluster performances out of another ozeki. However, in this case I do not think that Terunofuji will be a bust at ozeki but a two tournament promotion is jumping the gun. I think he’ll need at least two more tournaments at sekiwake.

Yes, he was dominant this tournament but the question is whether he can keep it up, particularly facing two yokozuna instead of one. He never had more than 8 wins in the top maegashira ranks, he doesn’t fight stablemate Harumafuji, and next tournament he will face both Hakuho and Kakuryu. The two-tournament promotion will be very tough but the three-tournament promotion is definitely within reach. He definitely needs to find an answer for Kaisei, that’s for sure. He’s lost to the Brazilian in two straight basho. Anyway, we shall see.

Analysis: Kinboshi Rates for Current Yokozuna

*Update 6 (7/12/16): Okinoumi defeated Harumafuji. Tochiozan defeated Kakuryu.

*Update 5 (5/10/16): Ichinojo defeated Harumafuji again. I will recalculate the totals. He faces Myogiryu tomorrow, another maegashira who already has a gold star, so another update may be coming tomorrow.

*Update 4 (3/24/16): Several tournaments of updates. He gave up another kinboshi to Osunaarashi in November but still won the tournament. Another kinboshi to Shohozan in January and Kotoyuki in March. I still hope to expand this analysis but I need to figure out a way to automate these updates.

*Update 3 (8/6/15): Tochinoshin’s default win over Harumafuji does not count as a kinboshi but I wanted to make a note.

*Update 2 (5/19/15): I tried to go to sleep but had to wait to see if Gagamaru would get a gold star. Surprise, surprise! I’m trying to also keep the numbers in the article below up-to-date. Harumafuji was at almost 1 gold star per 10 bouts but after this streak it’s almost 1 every 9 bouts!
*Update 1 (5/18/15): Harumafuji has given up 2 more kinboshi in the May tournament…and counting. I will try to update this article to keep it current. The latest recipients are M5 Tamawashi and M3 Sadanoumi.

After Harumafuji gave up 3 gold stars in the Haru basho, I wondered how many he’d yielded overall and how his rate compared with the other active yokozuna. I found out Harumafuji is quite prone to losing to maegashira, yielding one for every 9.1 bouts. He’s given up 26 in all, in about 209 bouts as yokozuna. The kinboshi seem to come in spurts. Also, Takayasu and Toyonoshima have been particularly effective against Harumafuji, winning 3 gold stars each. However, against Toyonoshima Harumafuji still holds a big 35-10 lead in their rivalry but he’s lost 3 of their last 9 bouts. Against Takayasu he’s only lost 3 of their 12 bouts.

In comparison, Kakuryu has given up 5 gold stars in the 74 bouts he’s had as yokozuna – a rate of 1 per 14.8 bouts, or about one per tournament. *(3/24/16) He’s given up 2 more in the past year, one to Aminishiki and another to Yoshikaze.

However, superzuna Hakuho has an amazing record against maegashira. He’s given up half as many gold stars as Harumafuji has but he’s fought in about 700 bouts as yokozuna. That’s an astonishing rate of 1 gold star every 70 bouts, or 1 gold star in just under 5 tournaments. I hope to expand this analysis to look at where these yokozuna fit in with other yokozuna through history.

Plainly, if Harumafuji is going to win another tournament soon, he can’t give up any losses in the first 10 days. *update, not only did he lose on Day 2 and win the Kyushu basho, he gave up yet another gold star to Osunaarashi.

Here’s a list of the gold stars Harumafuji has given (up-to-date as of 3/24/16):
Okinoumi (2),
Ichinojo (2),
Toyonoshima (3),
Takayasu (3),
Yoshikaze (2),
Osunaarashi (2),
Shohozan (2),
Chiyotairyu (2),

Endo Shooting for July Comeback

According to Yahoo! Japan, Endo is shooting for recovering by July’s Natsu Basho. Any later and he would likely be demoted from Makuuchi into Juryo. However, his oyakata does not want to rush things so if he’s not 100% he will not compete.

update* I think Endo will be ranked M12 or M13 in May and he’ll need to go kyujo for the whole tournament. The article says they don’t even know yet if he’ll need surgery. They haven’t assessed because of the swelling. Going kyujo in May will drop him into Juryo already for the July tournament. This is what happened to Homasho last year. He was M2 with one win when he was injured. Next tournament he was M13 and kyujo. Then he was demoted all the way to Juryo 9, going kyujo again dropped to Makushita 7 and announced his retirement. Endo has a bit of an advantage since he had 4 wins when he was injured but he was also ranked lower at M5.

Sumo in The Economist

The website for The Economist had a little article about sumo last week. Their “Economist Explains” series focused on the rise of foreign wrestlers in sumo’s upper divisions.

The past basho had mixed results for native Japanese wrestlers. Though yusho in the lower divisions were won by Japanese, Hakuho dominated the makuuchi and his only competition (and sole loss) was from Mongolian compatriot, Terunofuji. Also, all Japanese ozeki had lackluster performances, squeaking by with winning records. Further, Endo, Aminishiki, and Chiyootori had devastating knee injuries.

Anyway, interesting article. It doesn’t go much into the recent rise in the sport’s popularity nor does it really compare Mongolian wrestling to sumo which would help explain why Mongolian wrestlers feature so prominently. Personally, I think the foreign competition is making the sport more exciting.

Knees: Endo, Aminishiki, Chiyootori

Chiyootori’s knee buckled as he tried to get the special prize today. His injury adds to Aminishiki and Endo. None of the three could walk away from the dohyo under their own power. Endo seemed in the least pain of the three but all of these cases show how the Kyokai needs to make a change in the way it handles injuries. These wrestlers need medical attention quickly and they should not be walking after these injuries. After seeing what Homasho and Tochinoshin went through, and how he battled back from the lower ranks just last year, I’m not sure Aminishiki will have that much time to battle back.

Chiyootori makes it three
Chiyootori makes it three

Georgian Battle 2015

The build-up during the tachiai was certainly more dramatic than the actual bout. Tochinoshin dominated early, going for a quick throw which was rebuffed. But the momentum was clearly against Gagamaru. Once Tochinoshin had Gagamaru on the edge, he displayed his prodigious strength by lifting his 200 kilo compatriot over the straw bales. It’s always painful to watch him do this against Ichinojo but he’s certainly capable with those massive thighs. With this critical win securing a winning record he’ll probably jump a spot or two to M1 or M2 next tournament. Much hay was made of Robert Myers’ massive quads during the NFL combine but those writers have never seen the likes of Tochinoshin or Kotoshogiku.

Tochinoshin Gives Me a 2nd-Hand Hernia
Tochinoshin Gives Me a 2nd-Hand Hernia

This loss for Gagamaru ended a four-bout winning streak which began with an impressive win over Osunaarashi and continued through Ikioi, Kaisei, and Kyokutenho – certainly not cream puffs. I’m glad to see Gagamaru back and on form. He’ll be back in the mid-maegashira next tournament. As he’ll be battling more upper-maegashira and even sanyaku wrestlers, he’ll likely not get double-digit wins but he’s back where he belongs. In the meantime, he’ll be joined by Osunaarashi and Chiyootori who also had excellent tournaments…but will face stark reality in May.