Who’s That Rikishi #7: Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi

TochinoshinAge: 30
Birth Name: Levan Gorgadze
Home Town: Mtskheta, Georgia
Stable: Kasugano
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

Tochinoshin was born Levan Gorgadze, in the city of Mtskheta in 1987. As a teenager, the young Georgian practiced the Soviet martial art of Sambo and was a national level judo fighter. By the early 2000’s he took up amateur sumo and competed in several Junior and World Championships. While training with the Nihon Universities sumo team, he was scouted by Kasugano Oyakata. Levan joined Kasugano beya in 2006 and made his first professional appearance at the Haru basho. Adopting the shikona of Tochinishin, the Georgian native tore through the lower divisions, collecting eleven straight winning records. This hot streak was more than enough to land him a spot in Juryo for January 2008, where he’d win the Juryo yusho with an impressive 12-3 record. Following another winning record at the Haru Basho, he broke into Makuuchi in May.

Starting at Maegashira 14, the young Georgian experienced his first ever make-koshi losing record at the 2008 Natsu Basho. His first taste of top rank success came at the 2009 Kyushu basho when Tochinoshin finished second place behind Yokozuna Hakuho in the yusho race and collect his first Sansho special price for fighting spirit.Tochinoshin picked up his second fighting spirit award at the 2010 Natsu basho after defeating four ozeki in a row and finishing with an 8-7 record. This feat would earn him his first position in the San’yaku, and he debuted at Komusubi in July. His time in the joi was short-lived, and a poor 6-9 performance relegated him back to the Maegashira. He’d reach Komusubi again in Kyushu of 2010, but his fate was identical to the first time. In May of 2011, Tochinoshin replicated his previous second place finish with an identical 12-3 record and took home his third fighting spirit award. This exceptional performance would earn him his third promotion to Komusubi. Once again, he only accumulated six wins at the rank and returned to the Maegashira within one tournament.

Late 2011 also saw Tochinoshin embroiled in controversy. After a night out celebrating his birthday, Tochinoshin returned to his heya after the strict curfew his Oyakata had set. Not only had he missed his curfew, but Tochinoshin had broken the rules by going out in western style clothes. This this was not Tochinoshins first time breaking the rules, his Oyakata became enraged and proceeded to beat the Georgian and his fellow rikishi with a golf club. Following his beating, Tochinoshin fled his stable but returned two days later. During this time, the police had been alerted to what had happened and discovered a bent golf club inside the heya. His Oyakata was reprimanded by the association but was spared a criminal investigation when Tochinoshin and the other rikishi declined to press charges. As punishment for breaking the rules, Tochinoshin was not allowed to attend practices for a time following the incident, which the Georgian credited as the reason for his poor performance at the November tournament. Further misfortune would strike Tochinoshin in July of 2013 when he sustained a severe knee injury at the Nagoya Basho. This injury forced him to miss three straight tournaments and resulted in his demotion back to the Makushita division. Despite this setback, Tochinoshin made an incredible comeback, collecting four consecutive championships and exploding back onto the Maegashira scene at the 2014 Kyushu Basho. He managed 11 wins in Kyushu and took home his fourth career fighting spirit award.

2015 would be another successful year for the Georgian rikishi, who picked up his first kinboshi victory over Harumafuji, a fifth Komusubi promotion, and his fifth fighting spirit award. He’d experience another career milestone at the 2016 Natsu basho, where he finished with a 10-5 record and his first ever technique prize. His performance earned him a promotion to Sekiwake, his highest rank to date. Much like his Komosubi runs before, his time at Sekiwake lasted only one basho. At the 2017 Hatsu tournament, injury once again forced Tochinoshin to withdraw from competition. His time off the dohyo was substantially shorter this time, and he returned for the following tournament in March where he would be runner-up for the third time in his career. At the Nagoya basho, Tochinoshin collected a kinboshi win over Kisenosato and finished with a respectable 9-6 record. Despite high expectations for the Georgian coming into September, Tochinoshin only managed four victories after nagging issues with his knee resurfaced. After a rebound tournament in November that saw the Tochinoshin go 9-6, he entered the 2018 Hatsu basho ranked at Maegashira 5. From day one Tochinoshin dominated his competition, tearing through the San’yaku and the Joi and eventually finishing with an incredible 14-1 record, clinching his first ever career Yusho. With this victory, Tochinoshin became the first Maegashira ranked wrestler to win a yusho since 2012, and just the third European to ever lift the Emperors Cup. Following his tournament win, Tochinoshin was promoted to the rank of Sekiwake for the 2018 Haru Basho. Known for his tremendous strength, Tochinoshin is a skilled mawashi fighter who uses yotsu-sumo to win the majority of his matches. His preferred grip is a right hand inside left hand outside migi-yotsu, which he uses to force his opponents out of the dohyo.

Tochinoshin (left) vs. Hokutofuji (right), Aki basho, 2017.


10 thoughts on “Who’s That Rikishi #7: Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi

  1. Tochinoshin has been involved in scandal in 2011 (one of many in the Sumo world around that time): He was out with two low-ranking rikishi from his heya on his birthday, wearing western cloths (against the rules), and missed curfew (also against the rules). This was not his first breach of rules, and Kasugano oyakata lost it and beat all three of them up with – among other things – a golf club.

    Tochinoshin fled his heya. Returned after two days. In the meantime the police got an anonymous tip, started investigating and confiscated a bent golf club. The oyakata was called over to the kyokai and reprimanded. The deshi did not press charges and said it was “their fault”. The oyakata admitted he has gone too far and apologized publically. Tochinoshin was then disciplined by not being allowed to join practices for a while.

    Another scandal his name was connected with was when Wakanoho alleged that they smoked weed together at Magaki stable. This, however, was never proven.

    • It’s very interesting that the oyakata got off so easy considering this happened after the Tokitsukaze stable hazing scandal. 2011 really was a dark time for the sport.

      • Yes, he basically got a slap on the wrist. Possibly because the rikishi involved admitted to disobeying the rules. The general atmosphere at the time, I think, was that rikishi were getting out of hand as far as discipline was concerned – yaocho, gambling, cannabis – all of these were regarded mostly as rikishi misbehaviors, which the kyokai wanted to put an end to. And I think most of the kyokai is made of people who don’t really think corporal punishment is a bad thing per se. Just not the level that would draw in police investigations.

        • Oh definitely, most of the men in the Kyokai would have come from a different generation where this kind of punishment was the norm and just another way to toughen up their rikishi for battle. You listen to guys like Hakuho describe the early days of their careers, and it makes you appreciate just how tough these guys are for persevering through the hazing and physical abuse.

          What I’m curious to know is what the rikishi union (if it was around at the time) had to say about all this.

    • Just to look at him, he seems like the kind of guy you’d want to go out and have a beer with. But maybe not, if bodily injury with a 5-iron is in the forecast later on.

      • Just be sure to wear a kimono, or at least a yukata. And come back to the heya before the carriage turns into a pumpkin. The beer wasn’t the problem there (though I’d advise against cannabis). :-)

        To put your mind somewhat at ease, some reports that I read said that the stablemaster hit them with the grip side.

  2. He’s one of my favorite foreign rikishi, so i hope he can overcome the evil knee spirits and power through in November. That seems to be a common theme with all my favorites these days.

    Also different culture and all, but I really hope we all break the link between physical abuse/hazing and sports eventually. At least there haven’t been any sexual abuse scandals like the ones that plague young womens’ sports.


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