Tachiai readers please forgive me, as I was so pre-occupied trying to get folks to Osaka so that I forgot to wrap-up a few loose-ends of our Ones to Watch coverage! So let’s dig into it.
As usual let’s start with some high level stats on how our picks performed. At Kyushu we managed 17 kachi-koshi against 3 make-koshi, but slipped to a 12-8 record at Hatsu. How did we do at Haru?
Juryo promotions: 2️⃣
Ms1 Hakuyozan (Takadagawa) & Ms1 Wakatakakage (Arashio) – let’s just bucket both of these guys together here, as they both achieved promotion to Juryo. Admittedly, picking 2 guys ranked Makushita 1 to get promoted is not exactly the most dangerous of bets, but it doesn’t always happen and we had reason to believe both of these guys would be able to pull it off, after altogether very different routes to the top of the amateur ranks.
Hakuyozan, who’s been making ever so slow progress for the most part since his debut in 2011, will make his debut in the professional ranks just after his 23rd birthday. He put up an impressive 6 wins, staying in the yusho race until the very end, helped by a fusen-sho victory against the anchor-laden Takayoshitoshi. That would have been the second time he was called up to Juryo, following his dispatching of Enho on Day 1. His 6 win record actually constitutes his first such result at Makushita level and first such result in over five years, so perhaps he’s hitting a new peak at the right moment.
Wakatakakage, on the other hand, reaches Juryo after just 7 tournaments (including 2 yusho) after entering as Sandanme tsukedashi. His 4-3 is somewhat of a misleading record having been called up to Juryo on three occasions out of seven (knocking off the Makushita-bound Enho and Takayoshitoshi and losing to Takanoiwa). The evidence right now would seem to suggest he’s better equipped to mount a decent enough challenge to stay at Juryo than either Enho or Takayoshitoshi who were overpromoted last time out, albeit perhaps not by much. His match against Enho was somewhat even, and he probably shaded it until Enho’s entertaining but wild ways separated the two. His two brothers, who also featured toward the top end of the division, grabbed kachi-koshi as well and could be themselves challenging for promotion before long. It’d be interesting to see three brothers in the professional ranks by the end of 2018 and it could well happen.
Ms5 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – Just when you thought Kokonoe-beya couldn’t possibly have any more guys in the top ranks, here comes another. While his 5-2 record wasn’t enough to do the business from Ms5 this time around, I make him the presumptive favorite for promotion at Natsu, above any of the fallen Juryo men (of course, Takayoshitoshi will be suspended), or other Makushita challengers. His 2 losses came to the 6 win men Hakuyozan and veteran Jokoryu (who himself may be in the mix for a long awaited return to Juryo this summer), but he can take credit at being yet another Makushita man to have dispatched the Shin-Juryo fan favorite Enho, as he was called up to add insult to, er… insult on Day 15.
Ms11 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The 24 year old continues his smooth progress with his seventh straight kachi-koshi to open his career and will find himself in the top ranks of the division following another 5 win outing. Like many men on this ranking he continues to be largely in the pushing/thrusting game, though did mix in a couple slap downs and a throw this time, and he’s dealing well with an advanced mix of both hot shot and grizzled veteran opponents.
Ms13 Murata (Takasago) – The big youngster hung around the yusho race until the final days, and like Chiyonoumi dropped both his losing bouts to Hakuyozan and Jokoryu. While his rise hasn’t been quite as swift as Wakatakakage (who, like Murata, celebrated his banzuke anniversary this tournament after starting Sandanme tsukedashi last March), he’s well positioned to join the growing list of names on the next wave for Juryo promotion. While we talk a lot about the growing change at the TOP of the banzuke, the space for all of these new names is going to have to come from somewhere and we’re primed to see big changes in Juryo in the next year. As for the moment, the zanbara-clad Murata may need to work on his mobility and fitness in his promotion challenge: he’s a big guy with an already heavily strapped knee, and Hakuyozan turned him right around and led him to a very awkward fall.
Ms17 Ryuko (Onoe) – I had predicted a bit of a tougher time this time out for Ryuko, who had never suffered a kachi-koshi in his first year (never losing more than 2 matches), and he broke that streak with a 3-4 reverse. That being said, he did rebound from an 0-3 start which saw him lose to Tomokaze as predicted to post a creditable 3 wins over the second week. He’ll drop slightly at Natsu, but for a man who’s only 19 and mixes in a good amount of kimarite and has decent physicality, he’ll continue to be one to track.
Ms18 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – He’s a big boy and he loves a thrusting battle. Tomokaze managed to keep some momentum going in his 5th tournament as he eked out a 4-3, having seen off Ryuko but also names that have been around for a minute like Hokaho and Gochozan. It’ll be interesting after a fast start whether he can continue his progress at Natsu – he’s right in the mix of talented youngsters and vets aching for a professional return, and it’s possible as he starts to face more names with experience at a higher level that his pushing attack can be handled: the higher ranked and much more experienced Kizenryu gave him a toss for his Day 15 defeat.
Ms46 Tochikodai (Kasugano) – As mentioned, we took a mulligan here after his kyujo week 1 and lost tournament, so we’ll revisit him for Natsu.
Ms47 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – As noted in the recent Heya Power Rankings, Nishikifuji is one of two men Isegahama could have on the fast track to sekitori status as a reinforcement for their typically numerous representation at the top end of the banzuke. He suffered a real setback after a partially kyujo Hatsu when the flu was running through the heya, but bounced back nicely here with a convincing 5-2 record. He may be 4 months behind schedule in some respects, but we’ll look forward to seeing what he can do with a more challenging segment of the division, hopefully with full health, at Natsu. What is refreshing, as most of the hot talents we spotlight have tended to be more pushy-thrusty types – is that he’s shaping up to be more of a mawashi bound fighter.
Ms56 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – I predicted a potential struggle and that is what transpired, as Fukuyama laboured to an awful 1-6 record. On the plus side he’s shaping up as a max-effort rikishi, but physically he may lack what he needs to be competitive at this level. But, like his rival Tanabe, it’s possible that he can rebuild and reload for a comeback a few months down the line.
Sd2 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – My “draft & follow” choice managed to pull out a fourth win that should see him promoted back to the bottom end of Makushita when the banzuke drops. As I’ve picked him as a longer term follow with potential but may require time, I’d see a similar result at the higher level next time out as being a success.
Sd12 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe suffered in his first go at Makushita, but a good rebound for the talented youngster was always on the cards and he knocked out a convincing 6-1 record to seal a return to the third division in May. At the midway point, I noted that Tanabe was starting to mix in a good variety of kimarite and indeed he rounded off with 5 different techniques from his 6 wins, including a pretty rare okuritaoshi (rear push down) against Asakishin on Day 10. He turns 24 just before the start of Natsu and as he comes into his physical peak, the tournament will be a good bellwether to see if he can stick this time at the next level. Heya watchers will note that Kise-beya has a number of rikishi on the Juryo/Makushita bubble and of the stables with large numbers, seem to do a pretty good job progressing their rikishi through the ranks.
Sd37 Shoji (Musashigawa) – It’s a return to form for the Musashigawa man after looking a bit overmatched in January at this level. In just his fourth tournament, Shoji, who prefers fighting on the mawashi, rebounded from a loss on Day 8 to win his last 3 matches and finish with a strong 6-1 record to get what will almost certainly be a promotion to Makushita after 4 tournaments (and two zensho yusho). The last time 6 wins at his rank wasn’t good enough was 1975 so it’s a good bet we see him somewhere around stablemate Musashikuni next time out.
Sd89 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – We’ve tracked our favorite Texan’s results comprehensively on the blog, and while it was disappointing to see him fall to a last gasp make-koshi, his 3-4 record in the lower reaches of the division does signal a two win improvement from his previous foray into the fourth tier. Fans wondering what this record may portend have a glimmer of sunshine in the fact that Asaokado (now Asadaimon) was spared demotion to Jonidan in November with the same result, however that’s the only such instance in the last 15 years. So it’s likely we’ll see Wakaichiro somewhere between Jonidan 1-10 next time out.
Sd100TD Kizakiumi (Kise) – The Sandanme tsukedashi rikishi challenged until the very end, losing to Ohata by yoritaoshi in his final match, which decided the Sandanme yusho. Kizakiumi is a big 22 year old, especially by the standards of someone making their debut tournament, and it is a bit of an interesting change seeing someone in largely shorn hair competing at the level. He nearly pulled off the yusho and had the better of his final match against Ohata (though it’s tough to argue with the overall result, as most of Kizakiumi’s wins were against Jonidan opposition). We will likely see him somewhere in the middle of the division next time out, as he’ll look to equal the aforementioned Murata’s seven wins from his sophomore tournament having entered the banzuke in similar circumstances.
Jd5 Hayashi (Fujishima) vs Jd5 Torakio (Naruto) – I wanted to see how the two would match up, both rikishi having stumbled a bit after promising starts out of the gate. In the end, both men assured their promotion to the third tier, Hayashi having put together a string of four straight wins to secure his kachi-koshi while Torakio settles for a solid 5 win tournament. It will be Torakio’s second go at Sandanme and we’ll look for the strong Bulgarian to make a better impression than his absolutely brutal debut at the level in Tokyo earlier this year.
Jd42 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – For heya watchers, Sadogatake-beya stands in contrast to a stable like Kise that has been able to move its prospects through the gears. While the likes of Kotokamatani (who had a degree of hype) and Kotokumazoe have hit roadblocks, perhaps Kototebakari can impose himself on the next divisions. He recovered from an early loss to post 6 straight wins, so we’ll see what he can do at a higher level sooner than later. The 18 year old has had a significant physical advantage over many of his opponents in the lower two divisions.
Jk78 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – He stayed in the yusho race until the last, coughing up a final bout to the winner Tsukahara (what’s in the chanko over there at Kasugano-beya?), who will be one to watch himself next time after posting a back-to-back yusho. Yoshoyama certainly showed big progress from his debut tournament but will need to add bulk and also improve his tachiai.
Jk18 Naya (Otake) – Taiho’s grandson (we’re going to have to stop talking about him in these terms at some point, but not yet) absolutely mowed down the opposition en route to a zensho. It’s weird to see flashbulbs popping at Jonokuchi level but they certainly were for his matches, like the one against Asahio below to seal the yusho (video credit: One and Only on Youtube). He has an enormous technical and size advantage on basically every opponent at this level, so the most surprising thing is actually… he’s got a pretty good shiko! We’ll look forward to his assault on Jonidan in May. If there’s one quibble it’s that the schedulers didn’t pit him against the also physically imposing Nakanishi – making his debut this tournament and putting up similar results.
Jk19 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – Asashoryu’s nephew (see above qualifier) only had dirt put on him by the physically superior Naya, and this is going to be one heck of a rivalry to watch as they continue to climb the ranks. While he’s not as physically dominant, technically he appears to already be performing at least at Sandanme level (though it’s tough to say for sure, owing to the quality of opposition on show in Jonokuchi), so we’ll look forward to seeing him sharpen his skills next time out.
And yeah, we’re still watching Hattorizakura, and hoping for the unthinkable… it didn’t happen this time.