Is Small and Strong Viable In Makuuchi?
One of the great stories in Kyushu was the Makuuchi debut of Ishura, a fierce rikishi who has trained under the great Yokozuna Hakuho for many years. In his debut tournament, he scored an impressive 10-5 record, capturing the Kanto-sho special prize (fighting spirit). That fighting spirit was on display daily, along with a rather impressive physique that is quite unlike many of the modern rikishi.
Ishiura differs greatly from his peers, in that he has not spent a great deal of time cultivating mass, instead he has clearly spent years in the gym cultivating muscle. This has given him an operating range that is well beyond most sumotori, and he has used it with great effect throughout his Juryo career.
NHK found him compelling enough, they created a nice segment about him for their NHK World service, the video can be watched here:
To be certain, he has shown impressive speed and strength in Kyushu, but during the last third of the tournament, his torikumi began to include higher ranked rikishi, and he struggled. To be certain, this is exactly what is needed to either train him up to peak performance, or wash him back to Juryo where his unusual mix of speed and strength will allow him to dominate more easily.
After his excellent performance in Kyushu, he is ranked Maegashira 9W for Hatsu. At this rank he will face a wide variety of mid-tier Maegashira and maybe even San’yaku. This will show us what Ishiura is capable of, and the team at Tachiai will be tracking him with interest.