Group A of the inaugural Sumo World Cup is headed by our reigning champion, Kakuryu. He’s the obvious favorite coming into Nagoya given his two consecutive titles and the uncertain injury status of his rivals, Hakuho and Kisenosato.
My only question is, will this be his first three-peat? It’s been a while since anyone displayed the type of form necessary to win three in a row. The last time was obviously Hakuho. But we have to go way back to spring 2015 when he won his 6th consecutive title. This was just before Terunofuji’s groundbreaking win. (Not sure whether I should “pour one out” or make the sign of the cross here.)
For Kakuryu, the expectation will be double-digit wins. I’m pencilling in 12 unless a health report comes in saying he’s less than 90%…which seems to be peak fitness for anyone, lately. It will be a rough second week with Hakuho hopefully back and two senior Ozeki trying to shed their kadoban status, and a third trying to prove his muster. If Kisenosato makes it that far, there’s one win in the bag right there.
This group is notable for the number of tadpoles who will be vying for that all-important second qualifying slot. Takakeisho is in the joi will be hurting after week 1. Daieisho is in a sweet spot behind the joi but will face solid competition. Onosho is in an even sweeter spot, still on his rise back from juryo. Given that post at M11, I’m favoring him for a good 9-10 wins, just enough to claim spot #2 in Group A for Amphibian.
Ryuden is my sleeper. After the last tournament he fell real far. But I don’t know how much mopping up he’ll do here since there’s a lot of solid talent down there. A few others are likely eyeing a special prize in July.
Lastly, Takanoiwa is a big question mark for me. I am sure he can get his kachi-koshi but unsure whether he will get 9 or 10 likely necessary to advance out of this group.