Andy’s Mock Banzuke, Part Deux: The Upper Maegashira


Here’s my prediction for the top half of the March 2017 banzuke. I have Tochinoshin plummeting to Maegashira 8. It’s been hard to find any recent examples of winless komusubi but Kotoyuki had an awful two-win record in Nagoya last year, ending up at Maegashira 8 for the Fall Tournament back in Tokyo. If we go back to Haru 2015, Okinoumi lost four and then went kyujo. He fell to Maegashira 10 in the next tournament. So, it’s not unprecedented to have a massive drop like this.

Given the strong performances by Tamawashi, Takayasu, and Mitakeumi, I don’t see how Shodai’s losing record keeps him in sanyaku. The kyokai needs ozekis so they need to bring the good performers up the banzuke. I like Andrew Michael Daley’s “nozeki” term. Only the Kyokai likely know how serious the situation really is, but it appears pretty dire from my armchair heya in DC.

Ikioi was the only maegashira with a winning record among the gauntlet ranks. His wins over Terunofuji, Giku, and Kakuryu were not that impressive given their own terrible records and catalog of injuries. But, those wins seem emblematic of the issues facing our champions. Add in there the fusen victory from Harumafuji’s injury and I think we’ve got a flavor for what we can expect in March: many white stars and even a few gold stars for the young challengers.

OK, Takekaze’s not a young challenger – and neither is Sokokurai. These dudes are seasoned vets who are probably salivating as they get a whiff of ozekidom. Both wrestlers had 10+ wins last tournament. Add in to this Takanoiwa sitting on 11 wins. They can actually hope to get 10 more this time around. If they put together strong performances like that at M3, they will be in sanyaku with 20+ wins under their mawashi. This would be a worst-nightmare situation for the Kyokai. It will be interesting to see how they dance around elevation talk if either of them put together 33 wins now, even with 20 or more of those coming as rank-and-file wrestlers.

Terunofuji’s pre-promotion win-count included one tournament at M2. But he also had a yusho. Will they strengthen the requirement seeing as how their most recent ozeki promotions (Goeido and Terunofuji) have been busts? Can they even afford to with the nozeki situation looming? Right now, I’m sure the answer floating in their heads at the moment is, “This is fantasy. These guys can’t pick up double-digit wins ranked this high. Besides, Takayasu and Mitakeumi will be the next ozeki.” I actually agree but it’s fun to think of the possibilities. If Sokokurai puts up another 12, I’m going to enjoy the show, especially given his history, getting wrongly caught up in the yaocho scandal and then being reinstated after a two year banishment.

Yoshikaze is a sleeper. He’s not going to advance but he does pose a constant danger for serious upsets. Arawashi’s success may have been a fluke but it will be interesting to see where he’s seeded. I’ve got him falling out of the ranks where he’ll pose a danger to any sanyaku opponents. Rather, the  rest of these wrestlers should provide some great highlight bouts. The three heavyweights, Aoiyama, Ichinojo, and Kaisei will be great matchups (hopefully). They can be lethargic, inconsistent, and underwhelming but I’m thinking positively here.

 

Rank East West
M1 Shodai Ikioi
M2 Takekaze Sokokurai
M3 Takanoiwa Yoshikaze
M4 Shohozan Hokutofuji
M5 Chiyonokuni Aoiyama
M6 Ichinojo Takarafuji
M7 Arawashi Endo
M8 Kaisei Tochinoshin

2 thoughts on “Andy’s Mock Banzuke, Part Deux: The Upper Maegashira

  1. Ikioi got really lucky in January. But he has a really excellent chance to put in a massive effort here, and make a huge change in his career trajectory. As it is now, he is a solid Maegashira, and there is no shame in that at all. But with injuries plaguing the top men of Sumo, it’s time for rikishi like Ikioi to gamberize.

    The cluster of 10+ wins from many ranks in January were a huge statistical anomaly, and came about due to wide spread under-performance by injured rikishi. I am going to be very curious to see if the NSK has an alternate torikumi if after 5 days it looks like we are headed for a repeat. I also wonder if that will be figured into the actual banzuke – a significantly unexpected re-ranking of some folks to make sure that they have to fight hard for kachi-koshi, even if Goeido, Harumafuji, Kakuryu and Terunofuji are missing or weak.

    Much as I hate to say it, I think Yoshikaze retires this year. The guy is a fantastic force when he is switched on, but he has to be thinking about what happens next. He has a kabu, broad population among the sumotori, the NSK and the public. If you were going to retire, it seems like a good time.

    I think Shohozan may get a “halo effect” from being Kisenosato’s herald / dew sweeper. I would love to see Hokutofuji at Maegashira 4. I think the guy has a lot of potential, and I am hoping he can be a strong player in Osaka. At M4e, he would have a slightly lighter schedule, and might have a 1 win advantage straight out of the gate.

    Maegashira 8 for Tochinoshin would be brutal, but given what happened to Osunaarashi, it’s not implausible.

    Liked by 1 person

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