Before the beginning of Aki, I selected 20 rikishi from the lower divisions to follow throughout the tournament, including some intriguing duels. While most of their selections were down to their impressive talent and track record in the areas of the banzuke we don’t usually cover, others were feel good stories — and in a couple cases down to potentially historic futility.
Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – Kizaki, who’s never suffered a make-koshi, got off to a rough start against should-have-been promotion contender Kotodaigo on Day 1. But he’s rebounded nicely to a 3-1 record, enhancing his promotion credentials if he can keep his win streak going. He faces Oitekaze’s Juryo rebound candidate Tobizaru on Day 9, who is also 3-1. The two men have never met in the ring.
Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Challenging for the yusho at 4-0, he’s now won 8 straight matches going back to Nagoya. He’s not had a particularly easy schedule but it will intensify as he goes for his 5th win on Day 9, when he comes up against 4-0 Ms3 Masunosho.
Ms16 Wakatakagake (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – I noted before the tournament that these guys had tracked each other’s results with career 18-3 records and that has continued, as both are 2-2. Wakatakakage knocked off Murata head-to-head on Day 1. They won’t be in action again until at least Day 10.
Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – After a promising start to his career, I marked this as an interesting basho to watch for Ikegawa who is fighting at a career high level, having reached it not without some difficulties. The difficulties may continue, as he’s 1-3.
Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – Obamaumi was my pick to follow as he has a second chance at consolidating his Makushita status, having stormed up to a new career high after a year-long layoff. He’s 2-2 after fortunately picking up a fusen win on Day 7 so he’s got a decent shot to hang in there.
Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – Ichiyamamoto has cruised through the lower levels after entering in Maezumo following University. That looks set to continue as he’s off to a 3-1 start, but will face a potentially stiff challenge on Day 9 in the also 3-1 Aomihama of Dewanoumi-beya.
Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji looks set for a promotion as he’s 3-1 here, his sole loss coming from a visit to Makushita against Ichiyamamoto’s next opponent.
Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – He’s only lost once in each of his 3 basho before now, and he was on track to better that until he ran into Tachiai favorite Enho. He’s 3-1 and will also push for a Makushita promotion.
Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – Miyagino’s burgeoning rockstar has continued his undefeated start to his career as he’s 4-0 and challenging for a third consecutive yusho. He faces a stern test on Day 9 against another 4-0 contender and former university man Ichiki, from Tamanoi-beya.
Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – As I remarked before the tournament, Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe and Tanabe had only ever lost to Enho. And that has also continued: Fukuyama is 3-1 having lost to Tanabe on Day 6, while Tanabe is 4-0 and likely won’t see Enho unless there’s a yusho playoff. Fukuyama is idle on Day 9 while Tanabe takes on 35 year old Kasugakuni in a battle of two unbeaten rikishi at the lower end of the Sandanme ranks, possibly to determine who gets to fight Enho later.
Here’s some video of Tanabe getting the better of Fukuyama for the third time:
Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – We love Wakaichiro and have covered his basho extensively. He’s 2-2, but while he has a slight margin for a error in so much as he’ll almost certainly get promoted to Sandanme with 4 wins, we’re cheering for him to finish wish the maximum wins possible!
Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – The reigning Jonokuchi yusho holder was the other Jonidan rikishi I was looking at in this basho, but it doesn’t look like he’ll follow in the footsteps of so many others and make it two on the spin. His 3-1 record so far foreshadows a promotion to Sandanme if he can keep it going, but nothing less than perfection will do for the yusho.
Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I marked out Shoji as a potential yusho winner before the basho and he is fulfilling that prediction so far with a 4-0 start. I also remarked that Torakio gave him a good run for his money in a Maezumo match that was better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in Makuuchi. However, while Shoji knocked off Torakio early to establish his dominance in their burgeoning rivalry, Torakio is 3-1 and clearly on course for a Jonidan promotion next time out.
Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – And finally, the fight for futility. A refresher: Sawanofuji entered 9-48 with 7 wins against Hattorizakura. Hattorizakura entered 1-75 with 1 win against Sawanofuji. We knew they would match up, and they did, with Sawanofuji taking the match over the hapless Hattorizakura (video of a very difficult to watch match, below). Sawanofuji then picked up a fusen win – any more of that and we may see him in Jonidan next term! As for Hattorizakura… we wish him many bowls of chankonabe.
(video clips c/o One and Only on YouTube!)