It has been a peculiar year in sumo – there’s no question about that. The Kyushu basho punctuated this in a number of ways.
We have often talked – on this site, on podcasts, on social media – about the “changing of the guard” currently underway in the sport. The latest basho offered a delightful confirmation of this in the championship victory by Komusubi Takakeisho.
Takakeisho’s victory was a disruption of the normal order of sumo: young, talented prospects will move their way through the lower divisions – but the big prizes are almost always won by established superstars. Even Mitakeumi’s yusho this year was a victory – especially under the circumstances – by a rikishi with an enormous fanbase who was heavily favored to go on an Ozeki run even before Tochinshin’s surprise ascendance earlier in the year. This “disruption,” however, is what turns talented prospects into superstars in their own right – it’s just that it’s something we only get to see every few years – at most.
But there’s another half of that earlier point: that talented youngsters, college veterans and other hot prospects, will usually have their fun in the unsalaried ranks. Taking that into account, not only was Takakeisho’s top division championship in this tournament special in its own right – especially in the face of the heavily favored Ozeki Takayasu – it was actually unique because all of the yusho winners from the bottom four divisions were returning veterans. As a result, in a rare and incredible coincidence, Makuuchi division winer Takakeisho was actually the youngest winner of any of the six divisions at the Kyushu basho:
- Jonokuchi: won by Hatooka, a 24-year old former Makushita mid-ranker of Kise-beya. He was making his 12th basho appearance, and first full basho in a year.
- Jonidan: won by Mitsuuchi, a 22-year old former Sandanme mid-ranker of
The Onomatsu Group Jazz ComboOnomatsu-beya. This was his second consecutive yusho on his 9th basho, though he needed to come through a playoff against one of Sadogatake’s myriad prospects. Mitsuuchi is 3 months older than Takakeisho.
- Sandanme: won by Ura, a 26-year old past and present scientific marvel who has been apparently explained by Neil DeGrasse Tyson as “wow,” prompting Vegas bookmakers to slash the odds on the next discovered element to be named Uranon, but only because Uranium is already taken. This was his fourth spotless tournament and second yusho – having coughed up two in playoffs to fellow future funster Hokutofuji, and his stablemate Shiba, who is in the midst of making his third sekitori promotion challenge.
- Makushita: won by Sokokurai, a 34-year old injury-and-drama survivor of Arashio-beya, who rescued himself from a future as tsukebito to the Onami brothers. Generally liked despite just a single winning record* north of Maegashira 10. This was his fourth lower-division yusho in a 15-year sumo career.
* edited thanks to an error spotted by commenter Savaros
- Juryo: won by Tomokaze, a 23-year old big bopper from Oguruma-beya, who likes to push and thrust more than twist and shout. This was his 3rd yusho in 9 tournaments.
- Makuuchi: won by Takakeisho, a 22-year old tadpole from Chiganoura-beya, his 1st top division championship and 5th such success at all levels.
This coincidence is obviously a rarity because it requires a young champion. It’s the first time it has been seen in sumo in over 11 years, since the third yusho from another 22 year old: then-Ozeki Hakuho. The person to do it before that? Ozeki Hakuho, with his first championship, a year prior. Takakeisho – who like many was a much more promising recruit than the famously unheralded future dai-Yokozuna – will be hoping that his ability to turn his early career momentum into a title, like his predecessor, will bring him similar results.