YDC Soken Held This Week


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Kotoshougiku, Kisenosato and Harumafuji Look Injured

This week, the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee (横綱審議委員会) held their “invitation only” practice to review rikishi performance, and decide what criteria might be levied for Yokozuna contenders. During these meetings, the top men of sumo conduct practice bouts for the committee, and it is seen as a preview of the readiness of the upper level Makuuchi two weeks prior to the start of the basho.

In general the reaction of the YDC Chairman Moriya was positive for a change, he stated that everyone looked to be putting forth a full effort this time.  He stated: “Today was good. Everyone showed great spirit and that does not happen much..

Kotoshougiku was 0-4 in this practice session, and seems to still be struggling with his injuries. Likewise, Yokozuna Harumafuji seems to still be bothered by ankle and knee problems, in continuation of the trouble he had in Kyushu. Kisenosato went for 8 bouts, but stopped complaining of pain.

Hakuhou went 10 straight bouts with Shodai, giving him the “Roomba treatment” winning all 10 as Shodia got a close look at the quality of the clay and sand on the YDC dohyo.

Then there was Kakuryū, who was like some wild, possessed beast. He was practically unstoppable, and at one point sent Goeido crashing into the front row of tables, breaking a teacup. Kakuryū seems to be continuing his strong run from Kyushu. Goeido finished the session 6-4 in spite of being Kakuryū’s bowling ball for one match.

Hatsu Story 4 – Kotoshogiku Kadoban


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For a 7th Time, The Ozeki’s Rank Is At Risk

In 2011, Kotoshogiku – a Fukuoka native – was promoted to Ozeki after a series of strong performances as Sekiwake. In the past 5 years, he has turned in a losing record for 6 tournaments, although 3 of them were due to injuries and subsequent withdrawals.

As an Ozeki, he does not surrender his rank with a single losing tournament, but rather two losing tournaments in a row. After the first tournament under 50%, he is labeled “Kadoban” and placed at risk of demotion back to Sekiwake.

During Aki of 2016, I jokingly refereed to Kotoshogiku and Goeido as the “Kadoban Twins” as each of them had been turning in miserable records for a while, and really seemed to be milking the Ozeki rank, rather than excelling. Of course that basho, Goeido found his sumo and dominated every match. Though Kotoshogiku managed to win with a 9-6 record, it is clear the injuries that he has sustained over the years are taking a cumulative toll.

With Kotoshogiku now 32 years old, it may be time for him to accept that the stress of the Sumo life may have reached its logical outcome, and retire while he is still Ozeki. I for one would love to see him healthy, strong and on game once more.

I should mention that at the 2016 Hatsu Basho, we saw Kotoshogiku go 14-1 and win the tournament, so he can still win when he is healthy. But can he gather himself, overcome his injuries and win with authority?

Kotoshogiku’s Prior Kadoban Tournaments

  • November 2012 – Kyushu Basho
  • January 2014 – Hatsu Basho
  • July 2014 – Nagoya Basho
  • January 2015 – Hatsu Basho
  • July 2016 – Nagoya Basho
  • September 2016 – Aki Basho

Hatsu Story 3 – Endo vs. Shodai 2


Alright, they’re not in direct competition this time but I still believe the question from last tournament carries over. This question also ties into Bruce’s previous post because I believe the next Japanese yokozuna is currently a maegashira. Not sure whom, though.

Regardless, last tournament Endo was blasted with both barrels of sanyaku. He survived with a 7-8 record. His kinboshi against Hakuho and very impressive performance against the Ozeki were certainly deserving of special prizes if he’d been able to pick up another win.

On the other hand, Shodai GOT the special prize on the face of his fantastic 11-4 showing. However, his schedule was nowhere near the strength of Endo’s. This makes me want to study a way to implement a strength of schedule handicapping system to see where these guys really stand. I’m giving Endo the edge in this. I hope he has another strong performance and remains among the upper third of the maegashira. At this point, I don’t know if there’s really anyone among the rank-and-file strong enough to take on a sanyaku position for more than a tournament or two.

Hatsu Story 2 – A Japanese Yokozuna


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Two Candidates: Both Long-Shots

It has been more than a decade since a Japanese born sumotori achieved Yokozuna status. With each year that goes by, the cultural desire to see a native Yokozuna seems to grow. In recent years, two candidates have emerged at having a chance of promotion, but both of them have been unable to maintain the level of performance needed to close the deal.

Kisenosato – He is consistently a top performing Ozeki, but he has yet to actually win a tournament. His sumo technique is very strong, but is not usually varied, and the means to defeat him are known, and are consistently exploited by Harumafuji and Hakuho. In the multiple times the YDC has considered Kisenosato for promotion, the criteria of a tournament win is underscored as his remaining barrier to promotion. Yet it still eludes him. Even with Hakuho injured during Aki, Kisenosato could not gather his spirit and overcome his own distractions to win.

Goeido – Where Kisenosato has been Mr consistency, Goeido is hit or miss. In fact, he has frequently be kadoban since his promotion to Ozeki. You cannot tell from day to day in a tournament which version of Goeido will mount the dohyo. The Aki version of Goeido was an over-the-top sumo machine, unstoppable in any way and totally committed to victory. It was that version of Goeido that the YDC declared a worthy candidate, if he can win a second Yusho. His performance in Kyushu was good, and I think marred by a couple of questionable calls by the Shimpan.

Should either of these two win the Hatsu basho, it would be down to the YDC to decide, at least publicly, what to do about the win. The Japanese public are eager for a native, non-Mongolian Yokozuna, but the committee is wary of promoting an Ozeki that is not going to deliver the absolute top level of performance, tournament after tournament.

Hatsu Story 1 – The Return of Osunaarashi


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Egyptian Sumotori Returns to Upper Division

Osunaarashi had a rough 2016. After being a mainstay of Makuuchi for several years, Osunaarashi sat out Hatsu last year with injuries, after going kyung at the end of the the 2015 Kyushu tournament. As a result he was demoted down to Juryo for the Osaka tournament. He charged back hard, winning the Juryo championship, and a prompt return to the upper ranks.

Then Osunaarashi sat out with injuries again for Nagoya, and was again demoted to Juryo. He continued to struggle with injuries, and has not had a full attendance for either of the Aki 2016 or Kyushu 2016 tournaments.

In spite of his winning record in Kyushu, it seemed unlikely that he would make much of a rise from is Kyushu Juryo 6 ranking. But wonders and surprises were rolled into the Christmas Banzuke announcement. In spite of the odds, Osunaarashi has been given a spot at the very bottom of Makuuchi.

Can he withstand the punishment of the top division? Will he be able to stay healthy and finish the tournament? We look forward to seeing the big Egyptian give it his all.

Hatsu Banzuke Live!


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It’s not just Christmas day in the west, it’s also the day we get the first look at the ranking sheet for the highly anticipated January tournament in Tokyo.

http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnHonbashoBanzuke

Notable fun elements:

  • Kisenosato back at Ozeki 1E, after Goeido’s Shimpan fueled collapse
  • Shodai gets his turn at Sekiwake, as many anticipated
  • Takayasu hangs onto Sanyaku while Tochinoshin rises to join him as Komusubi
  • Mitakeumi holds tough at Maegashira 1, I was expecting a more dramatic demotion for him
  • Ishiura levitates to Maegashira 9
  • Osunaarashi the Egyptian returns to the upper division at Maegashira 16.  Given his devotion to sumo no matter what the cost, this is a welcome reward to see him once again in Makuuchi.