There were many interesting themes that unfolded during the Nagoya basho, but as we cited prior to the start of the tournament, the rise of a new, young class of Maegashira will likely impact the sport for years to come. I sometimes joking refer to this group as the “Angry Tadpoles”, given that most of them seem to have a common, tadpole-like, body shape. Whatever their form, their function has been to upset the slowly evolving status quo in sumo’s upper division to an extent not seen for several years.
Nagoya was the first time we saw this group ranked at Maegashira 6 and above, and with the multiple kyujo in the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps, many of them were pulled into bouts with the San’yaku for the first time in their careers. Broadly, none of them triumphed, but none of them really embarrassed themselves too badly. Let’s review
Takakeisho – In only his 4th basho in Makuuchi, Takakeisho found himself ranked Maegashira 1. Of course he was going to get his head pounded in by the big guns, this was his “welcome to the big leagues” ceremony. He has had 4 lower division yusho in his short sumo career. He ended Nagoya 5-10, which actually is not bad for a first Maegashira 1 birth. His matches included a really unusual bout with Hakuho, and defeating Kotoshogiku and Mitakeumi. As IKSumo predicted, I am sure he will take a dive down the banzuke for Aki, and that’s quite alright. This guy is going to be back, as long as he can stay healthy.
Hokutofuji – His string of kachi-koshi tournaments notched one higher again, as the man who seems to prevail no matter what did it yet again. This rikishi is quite impressive, and I would expect he will make a valid campaign for his first San’yaku slot by this time in 2018. His wins in Nagoya included: Takayasu, Kakuryu (his first kinboshi), Terunofuji, Yoshikaze and Tamawashi. Of his 8 wins, 5 were San-yaku. But he also lost to hapless Ikioi who only managed to get 4 wins. He has room to improve, but as many others have noted – he has a classic Ozeki air about him already. Some bloggers have even mistaken him for Kaio.
Ura – The crowd goes wild for Ura. Sadly he got banged up in Nagoya and probably needs to rest well south of the joi threat line for at least one basho. During the summer jungyo he is restricted to light duty, and like Kisenosato has not been taking scrimmage matches with the other sekitori. Ura went into Nagoya with many detractors citing his sumo “gimmicks” that got him wins by less than expected means. In Nagoya Ura showed a new dimension to his sumo (along with his tricks) and faced many opponents in a more direct and yotsu-zumō style moves. If he can recover from his knee injuries, he should be quite an influential force in sumo.
Kagayaki – He had a hard make-koshi at the end of Nagoya. His most interesting win was against Ura on day 3, which surprised the fans, and Ura as well. As he is not yet a “famous” rikishi, he is likely to get a stiff demotion to mid or lower Maegashira with his 5-10 record, but I expect him to battle back by the Hatsu basho to the upper third. I would not be surprised to see him continuing his pace of slow, steady improvements.
Onosho – Two tournaments in Makuuchi, two 10-5 record. At Nagoya he was a respectable Maegashira 6, and IKSumo’s forecast puts him at or around Maegashira 3 for Aki. If he does indeed hold that rank (or higher), we will get to see how he fares against a wide swath of San’yaku in September. Onosho shows amazing poise, confidence and ring-sense at a fairly young age, and may in fact be a dominant rikishi in some future post-Hakuho era.