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.

 

Nagoya Banzuke Posted!

banzuke-day

The banzuke for the July tournament is live on the Sumo Kyokai web site. Some notable results:

  • Mitakeumi back in Sekiwake. He let Tochinoshin rush past him and pick up Ozeki. Time to gamberize, king tadpole!
  • Tamawashi back in San’yaku at Komusubi East. I bet it’s time for celebratory cookies Kataonami heya.
  • Shodai at the front of the meat grinder at Maegashira 1 East.
  • Abi and Takakeisho ready to slug it out in the joi at Maegashira 3.
  • Kagayaki is at Maegashira 4, a new career high and his first time in the joi. Time to see if Mr Fundamentals can dance with the big men.
  • Endo’s incredible banzuke luck, only busted down to Maegashira 6 after a meager 3 wins at Komusubi in May.
  • Onosho returns to Makuuchi at Maegashira 11. I predict this young man is going to tear the lower end of the banzuke a new one this basho.
  • Kotoeko lands solidly in the top division at Maegashira 14 East. I am really (once again) liking the look of the level of competition at the bottom of the banzuke.
  • Ishiura holds on to the top division at Maegashira 15 East.
  • Ryuden sinks like a stone to Maegashira 15 West after 3-12 in May from M7 E.
  • Hokutofuji is clinging to the tiniest scrap at the corner of the banzuke at Maegashira 16 East.

Of course I would be remiss if I did not also mention that Wakaichiro is back in Sandanme at SD 94 West. Given his steady improvement, I predict he will fare better this time.

I am sure our resident prognosticator (lksumo) will review his own performance shortly, but in the mean time, head over the the NSK web site and enjoy.  Tachiai’s coverage of the Nagoya tournament starts now!

Nagoya Yokozuna Report

Kakuryu

It’s banzuke Sunday in the western world, and while the sumo fans eagerly await to see who came out on top, or how their guess the banzuke entry scored, let’s take a look at the top end of the Nagoya ranks. The Yokozuna have had their problems this year, and Nagoya may continue to underscore the tremendous change at work in sumo’s upper ranks.

First up is sumo’s top man for Nagoya, the unexpectedly genki Yokozuna Kakuryu. A year ago, if you had told me that Kakuryu would take back-to-back yusho and supplant Harumafuji as sumo’s anchor Yokozuna, I would have considered it unlikely. But he has somehow managed to get his body healthy and his fighting spirit aligned. His sumo looks quite good, and as long as he keeps from going for pulls, he tends to prevail. Kakuryu’s sumo is highly reactive. In most matches his approach is not to conquer his opponent at the tachiai, but rather to put up a strong defence and keep his opponent stalemated, waiting for a mistake. These mistakes almost always appear and Kakuryu is without peer in detecting and exploiting even the smallest error in his opponents. After his Natsu yusho, he suggested that he would like to see if he could achieve 3 consecutive titles, which would be remarkable for a man who many (myself included) suggested a year ago hang up his rope due to lack of competition. Prospect – Surprisingly Positive.

Yokozuna Hakuho is the Michael Jordan of sumo. There has never been any rikishi as dominant as he has been, and in all likelihood, none of us will live to see a day when some future sumotori surpasses his records. But his cumulative injuries are starting to impact his ability to compete. Specifically, repeated injuries to his big toes have robbed him of some speed, agility and power. Furthermore, the YDC has admonished him to change up his tachiai, which frequently features a slap to his opponents face. Hakuho has struggled with that guidance, and the lack of that first disorienting blow seems to have thrown his sumo off at least a half step. His performance during Natsu was a respectable 11-4, but his supporters wonder how much longer “The Boss” can keep going. His biggest issue in May was mental. His father had just died a few weeks before, and it clearly impacted the dai-yokozuna’s mental state. Hakuho’s father was his own larger than life figure, and was likely a driving force in his son’s life. Anyone who has lost a parent can attest to the mental impact it can have. But I suspect he took ample time during the summer break to come to terms with the loss, and his mental state will be nothing short of amazing for Nagoya. Prospect – Grim Determination To Win.

In 2017 the world welcomed the first Japanese-born Yokozuna in a generation. Many had their doubts about him, as he was promoted on his first yusho. He silenced all doubters with his outstanding performance the following tournament, winning his second yusho, and finishing in spite of a grievous injury that haunts him to this day. Sadly, since Osaka 2017, Kisenosato has failed to complete a single tournament. Fans have been rightfully depressed that a rikishi who would refuse to even miss a single day of practice would be sidelined indefinitely. As his kyujo tally mounted, he eventually reached a 7th excused tournament, matching Takanohana’s longest absence. For such a proud man, the strain of making the record books in such a inglorious manner must eat at him hourly. Fans have noticed in the past few weeks that he has been taking practice matches with his old training partner, Ozeki Takayasu. They have done this in the past, and it seems to have been mostly for show. But a rumor has been running around sumo fandom that Kisenosato has come to terms with the scope of his injury, and will retire shortly. But rather than fade out a defeated man, he will instead don the rope once more, and go out guns blazing in competition. Personally, reflecting on that outcome and the career of Kisenosato it would make perfect sense. It may not be Nagoya, but it will be before Kyushu. Prospect – Unlikely – or- Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

As we pointed in our Ozeki report, with two Ozeki pushing for 8 wins to relieve kadoban status, the pressure from the top of the banzuke on the rest of the san’yaku and the upper Maegashira will be enormous. Two or possibly three active Yokozuna all hunting wins could spell unrivaled carnage at the top of the banzuke. For fans of sumo, this means some of the most thrilling competition possibly in several months.