Let’s take a quick look at Yoshikaze as we enter 2016:
Yoshikaze has been on a tear. He first entered makuuchi division 10 years ago during hatsubasho 2006. Asashoryu was lone yokozuna, Kotooshu was shin-ozeki and a shin-sekiwake named Hakuho started his ozeki run with a dominant defeat over Asashoryu.
Obviously, a lot has happened in those 10 years. But for Yoshikaze, he went 5-10 in that first tournament and until last year mostly bounced around in the maegashira ranks. Even after his komusubi debut in 2014, he was in sanyaku briefly before rejoining the rank-and-filers after a 6-9 tournament.
Three more makekoshi records had him starting 2015 at the rank of M11. In March, his 5-10 record dropped him down to M14. But from there, Yoshikaze has been on fire. He won at least 10 bouts in each of the next three tournaments, going 33-12. If he’d done that at his new sekiwake rank, obviously he’d be shin-ozeki. However, last tournament he squeaked by with an 8-7 record and garnered promotion due to Myogiryu’s dismal November.
So, what are his prospects? I don’t think anyone is really anticipating an ozeki run. His impressive tournaments came against low-ranked opponents sprinkled with legitimate upset victories over Harumafuji and Kakuryu, notably during the tournament that Kakuryu won. However, he’s got an impressive 10-7 record against ozeki opponents going back through 2014. It will be nice to have some stability among the lower rungs of the sanyaku.
I’m hoping that he, Tochiozan, and Tochinoshin perform well enough to at least maintain their ranks for most of the upcoming year. There will likely be some attrition among the ozeki with some demotions/retirements before we see another solid ozeki run. Then again, that’s why they play the game.