Nagoya Storyline #2 – Four Ozeki

The July bashso marks the first time since Hatsu 2017 that the banzuke features 4 Ozeki ranked rikishi. Hatsu 2017 was a tumultuous basho, featuring both the demotion of kadoban Ozeki Kotoshogiku after his dismal 5-10 record, and elevation of Kisenosato to Yokozuna following his 14-1 yusho.

Prior to that, there had been 4 Ozeki on the banuzke starting in July of 2015, which Terunofuji appeared at the rank of Ozeki for the first time. For many modern fans, this was the “Good” era of sumo, with a strong group of high performance rikishi in the named ranks who kept the rank-and-file sufficiently crushed to the point there was little possibility of anyone else contending for promotion.

While having 4 Ozeki on the banzuke could make for some great sumo in week 2, fans have their doubts that we will actually see 4 compete. Shin-kadoban Ozeki Takakeisho has been slow to start training for the basho, and he may not be genki enough to effectively compete. Fans cheered Tochinoshin’s return to Ozeki following his 10-5 score in May, but as one reader correctly labeled him, he is a “Glass Cannon” that is prone to performance limiting injuries.

We are in a different era than the days of summer in 2015. Hakuho is reaching the end of his magnificent reign as dai-Yokozuna, and Kakuryu is always hit-or-miss. Fans are right to look to the Ozeki ranks for signs of another Yokozuna in the future, but with Goeido closer each tournament to aging out, Tochinoshin struggling to keep his body healthy, and Takayasu seemingly stuck in his sempi’s habit of jun-Yusho, there are no likely candidates.

Things to watch for:

  • Goeido is probably genki this July. With no jungyo he probably trained a lot, and will show up fast, strong and ready. I like his chances this time.
  • Takayasu is back to marathon training sessions with Araiso Oyakata. Will it help? I think it left his sumo at Natsu vague and confused.
  • Tochinoshin looked strong, confident and brutal at Natsu, but his stamina was only just enough to get him to 10. I would expect him to rack another 10 in Nagoya as long as that foot stays healthy.
  • Takakeisho, as reported above, is not healthy yet. Coming in kadoban means he needs 8 or face demotion to Ozekiwake for Aki, and a mandate to win 10. A healthy Takakeisho can win 10, but it’s a gamble on how long it will take that knee injury to resolve.

8 thoughts on “Nagoya Storyline #2 – Four Ozeki

  1. Tochinoshin is a Prince Rupert’s drop. (These are teardrop-shaped glass structures; the bulbous end is incredibly tough — you can smash it with a hammer and even shoot a bullet at it and it won’t shatter — but if you damage the tail end the whole thing fragments to tiny shards in an instant.)

  2. I don’t expect much from the Ozeki. Takayasu seems caught in some 90% genki state that keeps him at Ozeki, but prevents any serious push. Goeido just always finds a way to throw near certain Yusho. Tochinoshin and Takakeisho both probably lack the genki for Yusho contention too.
    With Hakuho probably not in Yusho shape and Kakuryu a big question mark as always, we probably have to look hard at the genkiness of the sekiwake ranks. I’m also really curious to see how Asanoyama will do.
    Further down the banzuke a genki Ichinojo could easily walk away with a victory. Also curious how far Shimanoumi can go and if Onosho finally found enough genki to seriously look upwards the banzuke again.

    At the bottom guys like Kaisei, Tochiozan or Nishikigi could really benefit from their position, if they are healthy.

    • Ichinojo is nicely placed just outside the joi (depending on who among the upper ranks shows up and stays in).

      • The Ichinojo from Osaka will tear everything apart from that rank … you just never know which one shows up ;)

  3. Another thing about Hatsu 2017: it was the last time we saw an ozeki yusho. In the 14 basho since we’ve seen two sekiwake, one komusubi and two maegashira lift the cup but a big fat zero from the men who should be pushing for the highest rank. I think that this is the longest run without an ozeki yusho since 1977-1981 and that was an era when there were two dai-yokozuna (Kitanoumi and Wajima) eating all the cake and leaving only the occasional crumb for the rest.

    Of the current crop, Tochinoshin has the most ability, Takakeisho has the most time, Goeido has the best recent form and Takayasu has the most convincing look. My hunch is that the next yokozuna has yet to fight in makuuchi,

    • Talking about the two princes here? ;) I’m not giving up on Mitakeumi yet. He has made a lot of progress since entering makuuchi, but I think he needs to move some mental road block out of the way. Tomokaze is also still without a makekoshi. He still lacks experience experience at that level, which showed a bit. The next year might be telling for him.
      For a long time I believed in Takayasu, but ever since his Ozeki promotions he seems to be very badly coached or very stubborn. He seriously lost any momentum, but if ever he gets a first yusho, who knows what this might do for him …

    • Keep your eye on Tsukahara & Kototebakari, a pair of teenagers who have been shadowing each other since their debuts and are now at the business end of makushita. Both are big, strong, young and have talent to burn,

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