A recurring theme in the past year has been the problems with the current crop of Ozeki, and their tendency to turn in losing records. Ozeki do not get demoted when they end a tournament with a majority losing record. It is, perhaps, a nod to the great difficulty required to rack up 33 wins over the course of 3 tournaments. Instead they get a “warning” that a second consecutive losing record will demote them to Sekiwake. An Ozeki in this state is declared “Kadoban”. This in fact happened to Kotoshogiku within the last year, and he was sadly unable to resurrect his Ozeki rank in the following tournaments. He continues to fade.
Headed into Aki, both Terunofuji and Goeido are at risk of demotion. Goeido was in this status last year entering the Aki basho, and responded by racking up 15 straight victories and taking the yusho. Sadly Goeido could not parlay this into a consistent elevation in performance, and has mixed results for the following tournament. His breathtaking Aki performance led us to coin the term “Goeido 2.0”, which described what seemed to be an entirely different rikishi. He was bold, committed and attacked with a ferocity that left no room for retreat. But Goeido suffered a significant ankle injury during Hatsu, and was forced to seek treatment that included steel pins and plates.
Similarly, Terunofuji underwent surgery in June to attempt repair on his knee, an injury that frequently kept him from top performance. Sadly it was not healed enough for competition when Terunofuji began the Nagoya basho, and he soon withdrew. Since going kyujo, he retired to his native Mongolia for recovery and training, and his working hard to be in condition for the basho.
Both of these men are fierce competitors, and we hope that both of them can clear their kadoban status with style. If reports of injury among the Yokozuna hold true, it may provide some relief to both men, who would find their schedules a bit easier, and their chances of a solid winning record increased.
Photo above is from the Japan Times article, and likely taken by John Gunning
In his second article for the Japan Times, noted sumo personality John Gunning looks at the increasing number of rikishi who only have one Japanese parent. These men are able to join sumo as Japanese and don’t count against each stable’s quota for a single foreign born athlete. The “One Foreigner” rule was put in place in an effort to keep the sport from being flooded with Mongolians, who at a time looked to be taking over the sport.
John’s article covers a lot of ground, all of it quite interesting to a sumo fan. He also devotes some space to covering Wakaichiro, which will help raise his profile in the sumo community. I must admit, that it seems that Wakaichiro is already doing a decent job of doing that himself, as he is personable and quietly charismatic.
As blog reader, commenter and sumo super-sleuth Herouth posted in the Endo thread, there is a tiny dribble of news about another Tachiai favorite, Ozeki and sometimes Kaiju, Terunofuji. Fans will recall he withdrew from Nagoya on day 6, after winning only one of his first five matches. Terunofuji had undergone knee surgery just a few weeks before, and was clearly not healed enough to execute Ozeki level sumo.
Since withdrawing from Nagoya, he returned to his native Mongolia to rest and train. Apparently, it may have done him some good, as he is now back training with his stable (Isegahama) in Tokyo, working towards being ready for the Aki basho in just over one week.
The Ozeki was quoted in an article in Nikkan Sports, “I am going to train hard, use my sumo, and win the yusho”. This week Terunofuji has been sparring at home with Takarafuji and Homarefuji. About his kneed, he says, “I am getting used to it now, but it’s not yet quite ready. My strength is steadily returning”.
Ozeki Terunofuji enters the Aki basho as a kadoban Ozeki, at risk of losing his rank if he fails to secure a winning record. That being said, a healthy Terunofuji is a fearsome rikishi, and is capable of defeating even Hakuho, if his confidence is in place.
We look forward to a strong and competitive Terunofuji in the upcoming tournament.
Sumo fan favorite, Endo, withdrew from the Nagoya tournament with injury to his ankle, and during the summer break sought medical treatment. It is not yet know if the laparoscopic surgery on his left ankle resolved the issues that have been plaguing him, but in a recent article in Nikkan Sports, Endo states that he is not sure he will be in condition to participate in the upcoming Aki basho.
Per the report, he is not currently engaging in any real training or practice matches, and on his chances of competing in the fall tournament, “I do not know yet”.
Given his vigorous demotion in the recent banzuke (Maegashira 3 to Maegashira 14), missing Aki would likely place him in Juryo for the November tournament in Kyushu. While it would be a blow to his pride, a revitalized Endo would likely have little trouble returning quickly to the upper division. Endo has battled back from Juryo once before in early 2016, after a string of injuries has left a once rising star struggling to maintain his sumo.
Tachiai wishes Endo good health and a speedy recovery.
Yokozuna Kisenosato is continuing to struggle to make himself ready for the upcoming Aki basho, based on reports in the Japanese sumo press. He continues to train with lower ranked rikishi at the Tagonoura stable, but has yet to take training with his normal sparring partner, Ozeki Takayasu. His focus continues to be on ensuring range of motion and some strength exercises for his injured left upper and lower body.
With less than two weeks to go, the fact that he is not actively in matches as part of his training is indicative of a rikishi who is not yet healed enough to complete. While he did some limited training during the jungyo PR tour, he did not actually appear to attempt any actual training bouts.
As we surmised in the Tachiai Aki Banzuke Podcast, we think that he may not even start the basho, and should probably sit out the fall tournament in hopes of returning strong for Kyushu.
Readers of the site know that I am a huge fan of Yoshikaze. I sometimes refer to him a “The Berserker”, out of deference to the norse warriors who would throw themselves into battle with no regard for their safety or survival. As a result, Yoshikaze frequently ends a basho with his face a bloody mess, and has at least once been hospitalized for his injuries.
After two tournaments with winning records at Komusubi, Yoshikaze now finds himself at the rank of Sekiwake. This is not his first time at this rank, having held it for the first two basho for 2016. What makes his current posting unique is his age. Yoshikaze is now 35 years old. I have been trying plumb the depths of sumodb to see how many rikishi have been able to rank at Sekiwake at 35 or above, but I would assume that the number is small.
From all reports, Yoshikaze is taking it all in stride, and even joked that he could in fact become the oldest rikishi ever promoted to Ozeki. While I don’t think anyone expects that, it would be a wonderful thing to see.
We look forward to Yoshikaze’s return to the Sekiwake rank, and his tour through a banged-up San’yaku.
I must confess that your humble associate editor fouled up the podcast recording, and failed to set the system to capture Andy’s lovely face. So you would have had 43 minutes of my mug, reacting to everything you could not see Andy saying. So the podcast for the Aki banzuke is audio only.
It’s on the long side, but we finish with discussing a possible match between Wakaichro and objects in excess of 600 pounds….
I knew that the Aki banzuke would be harder to predict than Nagoya, and so it proved. I got the big picture right, but missed many of the details, although in my defense, some of the committee decisions are real head-scratchers.
The upper San’yaku went exactly as predicted, with all 7 Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks matching the forecast. No surprise there. Mitakeumi at East Sekiwake was also an easy correct prediction. Slightly more challenging, I correctly forecast Yoshikaze to claim the West Sekiwake slot. Also as predicted, Tamawashi and Tochiozan got the Komusubi slots, though on the opposite sides from my forecast.
Overall, my San’yaku forecast resulted in 9 bulls-eyes and 2 hits in 11 predictions, or 20 out of 22 possible GTB points. The maegashira forecast was much less accurate.
I correctly predicted the members of the joi-jin (aka the meat grinder) at M1e-M4e. The exact ranks here were also right on target, except that I had Aoiyama at M1 and Kotoshogiku at M2, the opposite of the actual banzuke. I know Kotoshogiku deserves a lot of deference for his career achievements, but by my ranking system, Aoiyama was so far ahead of him that I couldn’t justify making that switch.
Further down, I’m only slightly surprised to see Ura at M4w ahead of Shodai and Takakeisho. Indeed, I had this order right in my immediate post-Nagoya forecast, but talked myself out of it. As Bruce also notes, Ura could have used a lighter schedule after Nagoya.
In the lower maegashira ranks, my misses were by one rank and among groups of rikishi with identical computed ranks. These are always pretty arbitrary. One surprise to me is Ishiura ranked below Arawashi, especially as this decision also inexplicably splits and assigns different ranks to Arawashi and Takekaze, who put up identical performances at the same rank at Nagoya. The other surprise is seeing Tokushoryu at M15e. My forecast had him demoted to Juryo in favor of Myogiryu. I would not have been surprised to see him hang on to Makuuchi at M16, but M15 seems ridiculously generous.
Overall, my maegashira forecast resulted in 11 bulls-eyes and 4 hits in in 31 predictions, for a total of 26 out of 62 possible GTB points. Yeah, not great. I’ll take some comfort in the fact that 15 of my 16 misses were by one rank, with the aforementioned Tokushoryu the only exception. So if you wanted to get a good general idea of where your favorite rikishi would be ranked, the forecast served its function. If you wanted to know the exact rank…well, see the title of this post.
With the publication of the Aki banzuke, it’s looks that the Aki basho will feature another circus of injuries, and another shining opportunity for the up and coming rikishi to further their advances. Some comments on the banuke
Takayasu: Ozeki 1 East – The only healthy Ozeki now the lead man for the group, with both Terunofuji and Goeido kadoban and at risk of demotion.
Yoshikaze; Sekiwake West – There was a big question on who would get Sekiwake, and now we know that the Berserker is out man. He joins Mitakeumi in the toughest rank in sumo.
Kotoshogiku: Maegashira 1 West – Tough to think of the former Ozeki now down with the rank and file, but he continues to under perform. We hope he retires soon with some dignity remaining.
Onosho: Maegashira 3 East – Hoo boy! Onosho now has his chance to mix it up with the big men of sumo. I am sure he is going to get pounded into the clay, but it will be interesting if he can make a showing as strong as Ura’s
Ura: Maegashira 4 West – Losing just a single slot, moving from East to West, Ura is once again possibly going to face some punishing rounds in the joi. With his Nagoya injuries possibly still not quite healed, he needs to be careful.
Endo: Maegashira 14 East – Dropping 11 slots from Maegashira 3, Endo’s injury plagued Nagoya performance has given him a brutal boot to his pride.
Wakaichiro: Jonidan 4 East – Our favorite Jonidan rikishi now sits near the top of the division. A winning record will propel him up to the next higher division (Sandanme) for the Kyushu basho in November.
Video / Audio podcast later today fans, lets get ready for Aki!
The Sumo Kyokai has released their fall ranking sheet, prior to the Aki tournament starting 2 weeks from today. This signals the start of the build up to the next great basho, to be held once more in Tokyo’s Kokugikan – the sumo palace.
Andy and I will put together a podcast shortly, and with any luck have it ready for your enjoyment later tonight US time.
For those of you waiting through the long summer break, it’s sumo time once more!
My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.
No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.
Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:
Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.
Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.
Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.
Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.
By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.
The Meat Grinder
I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).
The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.
The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.
Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.
Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.
Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.
Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.
Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.
A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.
Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.
This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.
Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.
This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.
Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions
Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.
The long summer sumo drought ends in just over 48 hours, as this Sunday (US time) the Aki banzuke will be published by the Sumo Kyokai. Our resident prognosticator, IKSumo, has prepared an excellent forecast of the banzuke for readers who want to see what the ranking sheet will likely describe.
Also this weekend (in Tokyo), the KITTE exhibition is taking place at the JP tower in Marunouchi. This is a short form tournament that takes place in what is more or less a shopping mall, but it is typically heavily attended by the public and will be a solid gauge of fan enthusiasm. It will also be an indicator of the relative health of Kisenosato and Kakuryu. If they appear and compete, it’s likely they will compete at Aki, if they do not compete, their status for Aki is in doubt.
As always the Tachiai team are eagerly standing by for the banzuke’s release, and we will bring you analysis and commentary late on Sunday (US time), hopefully to include our next banzuke podcast.
In early July, we anticipated that shin-Sekiwake Mitakeumi would make the most of finally breaking into the Sekiwake rank, after waiting for multiple basho for a slot to open up.
Nagoya marked a milestone achievement for Mitakeumi, after nearly a year bouncing between Maegashira 1 and Komusumi, he was finally able to land a position at Sekiwake. Mitakeumi has had a fascinating career since he joined professional sumo in 2015 (yes, just two years ago). He came from being a college Yokozuna at Toyo University, straight to a started rank of Makushita 10, where he proceeded to kick everyone’s butt in brilliant and overwhelming fashion, including taking the Yusho in his first basho in Juryo.
It was clear from the start that Mitakeumi was never going to slow down, and he has been continuing to be the leader of the class of the new generation of rikishi. He has been competing at Sekiwake for at least two basho prior to Nagoya, but the clog of Takayasu waiting to move up and Kotoshogiku waiting to move down prevented him from taking his slot to begin an Ozeki campaign.
That campaign likely did not start at Nagoya, as it seems young Mitakeumi still needs to tune up a bit before he can start pressing for double digit wins at Sekiwake, turning in a 9-6 result and a second Shukun-sho (outstanding performance) special prize. His Nagoya record includes a rather impressive defeat of dai-Yokozuna Hakuho, handing him his only loss, and braking any chance he could start another run at the Futabayama consecutive win record. He also defeated the damaged Yokozuna Kisenosato on the first day.
With his winning record and outstanding performance, he remains at Sekiwake, and will push for double digits in Tokyo this September. For Aki, we anticipate that he will be Sekiwake 1 East, and play foil to both kadoban Ozeki, each of which will need to score a win against him to help stave off demotion.
Sure, readers can correctly state that I do write about American sumotori Wakaichiro quite a bit. Is it silly for one of the few english language sources of sumo in the known universe to pay attention to someone who is in Jonidan?
Not at all!
Wakaichiro is personally working to solve a question that Andy and I have had for a bit. What happens if you take a large, strong young Amercian, who played a good amount of football, and stuff them into sumo life? Do they excel? Are the skills, size and speed translatable? Wakaichiro is a large fellow, and he certainly has speed and strength. He is part of an excellent, if young, stable (Mushashigawa). He trains hard, and has had a record of producing winning results.
Wakaichiro had managed to break out of Jonokuchi with his 5-2 winning record in Osaka, and finished his first Jonidan basho with a 4-3 kachi-koshi in May in Tokyo. This boosted his rank to Jonidan 26 for Nagoya.
In Nagoya, Wakaichiro showed solid improvement from Natsu, and was able to prevail against a variety of mostly veteran rikishi. He finished with 4-3, which is good enough to secure a move higher in the banzuke. From photos published via twitter (frequently by Inside Sport Japan), the coaches at the heya are working him well, and we hope to see additional steady improvement.
For Aki, Tachiai expects him to be ranked in the top 10 slots of Jonidan, or possibly even at the bottom of Sandanme, which would be quite a challenge for the young man from Texas. With the banzuke only a week away, his growing fant base eagerly awaits his next flight of bouts in September, and we join in wishing him good fortune and vigorous bouts.
Once again, Tachiai thanks reader Herouth for tipping us off to some sumo news that is not about Kisenosato. In fact, it’s a very interesting post about Endo, and the ankle injury sustained at Nagoya in his day 1 loss to Ura.
According to reports published in the Japanese sumo press (Nikkan sports cited here), Endo underwent surgery to repair his left angle in late July, and is now recovering. It is hoped that he will able to enter the Aki basho starting in 3 weeks time.