A Hard Road To Glory
The current crop of Ozeki (aside from Kisenosato) have been battling chronic injuries and a general lack of performance. The poster child for this miasma is Kotoshogiku, who just more than a year ago won the 2016 Hatsu basho, breaking a years long streak of Mongolian yusho. One year later, after being kadoban 3 times, he was demoted from Ozeki; a startling turn of fortunes for a powerful and iconic rikishi.
For Haru, he is one of 3 men who hold the Sekiwake rank, an unusual arrangement. Kotoshogiku as one chance to regain his rank – he must defeat 10 opponents out of the 15 he will face in Osaka. This will be no easy feat, and frankly, it should be impossible.
By his own admission, Kotoshogiku still suffers from the same injuries to his knees and back that have sapped his performance for the past year. His signature technique is to wrap up his opponent and apply a brutal, nearly unstoppable hip pumping attack. when he is healthy, and when he can get his “hug and chug” going, he is practically unstoppable. But without a strong and healthy lower body, Kotoshogiku cannot execute his signature move.
His path is steep and difficult to make 10 wins – meaning he can only lose 5 matches. In the first week, he will face Hakuho, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Goeido and Terunofuji. Granted several of those rikishi are currently battle damaged, but he has to survive this group only losing 5. In week two he will be facing the fierce San’yaku battle fleet, which is especially potent this basho, with some of the strongest performances during Hatsu in recent memory.
The Tachiai crew loves to watch a healthy, vigorous Kotoshogiku apply his brand of sumo, but we worry those days are now just a warm memory, and one of our favorites will now face a brutal rebuke on his campaign to reclaim Ozeki glory.