Two wrestlers will be in the sekitori (Makuuchi + Juryo) ranks for the first time in Fukuoka: Gokushindo and Tomokaze. They enter the paid ranks following strong performances in the Makushita joi—Gokushindo won the 3rd-division yusho with a perfect 7-0 record from Ms5, while Tomokaze went 5-2 from Ms4. Tomokaze’s promotion was a surprise, as Daiseido (Ms2, 4-3) should have been ahead of him in the promotion queue according to historical precedents.
While the two debutants are of similar age (22 and 23), they took very different paths to Juryo. Tomokaze has had something of a meteoric rise. After a university sumo career, he entered professional sumo in May of 2017, debuting in maezumo, where he went 3-0. I’m not sure why he did not start higher up the banzuke, as some collegiate wrestlers do—either he wasn’t sufficiently successful in college, or he chose to enter at the bottom of the sumo ladder. After that, he flew through the three lower divisions in one tournament apiece (Jonokuchi 7-0 Yusho; Jonidan 6-1; Sandanmne 7-0 Yusho) before posting 5 consecutive kachi-koshi records in Makushita to earn a spot in Juryo. That’s right—he has yet to post a losing record.
Gokushindo, on the other hand, entered sumo all the way back in 2012 as a 15-year-old. It took him a few tournaments to get established in Sandanme, where he spent almost three years before making his Makushita debut in 2015. He also lost all or part of three tournaments to injuries. After bouncing back and forth between Sandanme and Makushita, he finally established himself in the third-highest division in May of 2017—the same tournament that saw Tomokaze make his maezumo debut. He worked his way to the top of the division, flopping in his first chance at promotion by going 3-4 at Ms4 in March, missing out on promotion despite a 6-1 record at Ms7 in May, and failing again from Ms2 in July (3-4) before finally succeeding in emphatic fashion with a zensho yusho.
It will be interesting to watch how the two men fare in the sekitori ranks. Will they make it to the top division? Who will get there first?