Sumo World Cup Group A

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.

Thoughts?

Kisenosato Starts Training For Nagoya

kisenosato-workout2

On the 26th (Tuesday that is), Kisenosato took up some basic practice routines at the Tagonoura temporary base camp in Nagoya. He only did basic exercises and acted as the dead weight for butsukari. The article mentions that he hopes to start training matches on Wednesday the 27th against lower ranked opponents. Fans everywhere are wondering what Kisenosato’s end-game could be, and how long he will prolong his quite possibly tragic return to the dohyo.

For those of you with some kanji skill, feel free to have a look at the original text.

Introducing the Sumo World Cup

This year, the final week of the World Cup will overlap with the first week of the Nagoya basho. In honor of the World Cup I’ve decided to introduce the Sumo World Cup as a “meta-basho”. This tournament will equate to the “Group Stage” with the top 2 finishers in each group moving on to the next round in September. I’ve had to institute a few key differences. Mainly, there are 6 rikishi in the groups instead of four. This is because there are 42 wrestlers in makuuchi. I’ve also added the 6 top wrestlers from Juryo to round out the groups at 48.

If this doesn’t work out, we will never speak of it again. Rather than head-to-head matchups, this only makes sense to take the wrestlers’ overall records instead. I have got to say, my Group A favorites are Kakuryu and Onosho. In September, the winner from Group A would face the second place survivor of Group B (Takarafuji?) and the winner of that match-up would continue to the Group of 8 and so on. The ultimate winner would be crowned in March…if this doesn’t end up as pointless as the CONCACAF Champion’s League.

Nagoya Banzuke Prediction Postmortem

Now that the official banzuke is out, it’s time once again to review how my predictions fared.

The San’yaku

Here, my forecast was right on the money: all ten slots were predicted correctly. There was some talk about whether Shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin would leapfrog the two incumbent kadoban Ozeki, Goeido and Takayasu, in the standings. Instead, as predicted, he begins his Ozeki career at O2w (the additional wrinkle here is that he is placed on the less prestigious West side, leaving the O1e rank empty, in order to balance the two sides).

It was clear that the Sekiwake ranks would be occupied by Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, although there was some question about the order. As predicted, the incumbent, Ichinojo, is ranked ahead of Mitakeumi, who is returning to the rank after spending a tournament at Komusubi, despite Mitakeumi’s better win total (9 vs. 8) and head-to-head victory over Ichinojo. Also as forecast, the Komusubi slots are occupied by Tamawashi and Shohozan, neither of whom is a newcomer to the rank. Shodai has to settle for M1e, and is in pole position for any potential San’yaku openings should he achieve kachi-koshi in Nagoya.

The Rank-and-File

Here the forecast record is a lot more mixed. Of the 32 maegashira ranks, I correctly predicted 16, and for 11 of these I also got the side correct. Of the other 16 predictions, 13 were off by one rank, typically as a result of a switch between two consecutively ranked rikishi (e.g. 10w Nishikigi and 11e Aoiyama) or a more complex local rearrangement.

This brings me to the three more substantial misses. Two that could have been anticipated resulted from the banzuke committee’s noted bias against promotions from Juryo. I tried to take this into account by dropping Onosho and Kotoeko, who by my formula should have been ranked M8 and M11, to M9 and M12, respectively. The banzuke committee was much harsher, ranking the two M11 and M14. This is especially surprising to me in the case of Onosho, a recent Makuuchi mainstay who was only back down in Juryo for a single tournament due to injury and won the yusho with an impressive 12-3 record from J1, but nevertheless got treated like someone making his top-division debut. (I’ll note parenthetically that I correctly forecast the three promotions, Onosho, Kotoeko, and Meisei, who occupies the final M16w rung, and the corresponding demotions of Takekaze (J1e), Daiamami (J2e) and Aminishiki (J4w)).

This brings us to by far my biggest miss in this or any previous forecast, by a whopping five ranks, and one where I find the banzuke committee’s decision completely baffling. M3 Yutakayama, after putting up a disastrous 2-13 record, finds himself demoted only 6 ranks, landing at M9. My forecast had him at M14, which one could argue was slightly harsh, but even M11 would have been extremely charitable, and M9 is beyond generous. For comparison, the next-worst-performing rikishi, Ryuden, was demoted 8 ranks despite a slightly better 3-12 record. Perhaps the quality of Yutakayama’s losses was taken into account, although this is not something the banzuke committee generally engages in. It’s hard to argue that his ranking is simply a consequence of good banzuke luck, as several rikishi with kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi records deserve to be ranked ahead of him. If anyone has an explanation, I’d love to hear it.