Nagoya Storyline #1: Hakuho, 15 Days? 白鵬は十五日間出来ますか?

The top storyline going into Nagoya must be this man. Will he compete on Day One? If he does, will he be able to withstand the full campaign? The champion’s mindset, however, does not stop there. Hakuho wants to win. From Herouth’s Twitter feed today we see his Tanabata (link to last year’s excellent story) wish, along with the realistic admission that he’s not anywhere near 100%.

Still, his wish is to pick up Yusho #43, 11 clear of the great Taiho. We hope he comes back and comes back healthy. The specter of Kisenosato still haunts the dohyo but with Takakeisho’s participation far from certain, there will clearly be pressures to appear and not go full kyujo for a second straight tournament. Either way, we can only hope for a prudent decision based on fitness. He’s got a full year to make good on the Tanabata wish, no need to rush it.

This year, Tanabata falls on the first day of the Nagoya tournament, so the Rikishi-Kai met and sekitori filled out their Tanabata wishes. So let’s pivot from Hakuho’s grand dream in honor of the early celebration to see what the others decided to wish for. Some, like Meisei, opted for the simple, a Go-Pro camera. I am just waiting for the day when a rikishi sneaks one into the folds of his mawashi and live streams a bout. Then again…maybe not.

Hakuho’s protege, Enho, aspires for the Technique Special Prize. The first concern will be getting a winning record. If he does get a winning record, a technique prize would be fitting if he picks up an extra two wins. According to the career visualizer, 20% of his wins come from shitatenage, just under 14% each from the usual yorikiri and oshidashi, while 10% come from ashitori.

Six or seven of the bouts at the bottom of the banzuke will be competitive with wrestlers who’ve been in Juryo recently. However, there are quite a few bruising barracudas swimming around down there this tournament, looking for breakout tournaments special prizes of their own.

Newly minted sekitori, and nervous looking Kizakiumi is aiming for a simple kachi-koshi, likely just hoping to maintain his professional rank and all the accoutrements that come with it. I’m eager to catch more of this pusher-thruster. 80% of his wins come from oshidashi and he has the curious distinction of making the professional ranks without notching a single yorikiri win. The wise should try to get at his belt.

Azumaryu, on the other hand, is shooting for a Juryo yusho from the top rank in the West. He’s toiled in Juryo for much of the last 6 years. He’s in a prime spot for Makuuchi promotion if he manages a simple 8 wins…but grabbing that title would likely propel him pretty far into the thick of the top division where he could hopefully stay around for a while.

I will wrap things up here with Onosho’s wish because this is my wish for all of these gladiators: good health. I’m shooting for sound mind and toned body myself this year. My son’s been really into soccer so my own game has improved to such a level, and I’ve developed such power in these thunder thighs that I managed to kick the ball straight through our back window the other day. Those sumo squats are paying off.

Nagoya ’19: Visual Banzuke

The banzuke is out. Leonid has broken down his prediction. In the coming days we’ll be dissecting the new ranking list, tracking notable wrestlers, pointing out winners and losers. I have updated the interactive banzuke for Makuuchi and Juryo in Nagoya. I can never keep straight which wrestlers are in which heya (unless their names start with Koto) so if you click on the name of an ichimon or a heya, the banzuke will filter to just those wrestlers. I hope you all enjoy!

Nagoya Banzuke Postmortem

The banzuke committee hard at work

Well, the official rankings for the Nagoya basho are out, and while the crystal ball fared reasonably well, there are some real head-scratchers among the banzuke committee’s decisions. Let’s take a look at what my predictions got right and wrong.

As expected, there were no surprises in the upper ranks from Sekiwake to Yokozuna, where all eight placements went exactly to form. But just below that, we got our first big surprise, with Ryuden (M5w, 10-5) taking the West Komusubi slot in place of Asanoyama (M8w, 12-3). Not only is Asanoyama’s combination of rank and record clearly superior, but he also won the yusho! Oh, and he defeated Ryuden in their head-to-head meeting on Day 9. Neither man has been ranked in San’yaku in the past, so that can’t have given Ryuden the edge either. Pretty much all of the other forecasts I’ve seen also had Asanoyama at Komusubi, so this decision definitely qualifies as a puzzler. EDIT: Now that the Guess The Banzuke results are posted (your humble prognosticator came in 8th, his best result to date), we have some numbers. Of the 83 players, 74 had Ryuden at M1e, and only 9 had him at West Komusubi. As for Asanoyama, 8 had him at M1e, 1 at M2w (???!!!), 40 at West Komusubi, 28 at East Komusubi, and 6 at West Sekiwake. So the committee’s decision was clearly a surprise to those who try to forecast the banzuke on a regular basis.

And the committee’s work did not get any less puzzling in the upper maegashira ranks (M1w-M4w). It was reasonably clear which seven rikishi should be placed here, but their order was anything but. The committee seems to have pretty much randomly drawn names out of a hat, resulting in two pairs of rikishi who posted identical records at the same rank at Natsu (M2e Endo and M2w Daieisho, both 7-8, and M7e Shodai and M7w Meisei, both 10-5) being placed a full rank apart. Aoiyama got the benefit of the doubt sometimes given to make-koshi San’yaku rikishi, only falling from Komusubi to M2e with a 6-9 record, but Ichinojo did not, falling from East Sekiwake to M4w. Ichinojo’s placement was the only one my forecast got right in the nine ranks from West Komusubi to M4.

The forecast improved significantly from there, placing 18 of 24 rikishi from M5 to M16 at the correct rank, and with only one switch of sides (East vs. West). That switch highlights internal inconsistency in the committee’s decision-making. Both they and my prediction had Myogiryu (M5e, 6-9) and Tomokaze (M9w, 8-7) at M7 and Okinoumi (M4e, 5-10) and Onosho (M10w, 8-7) at M8. But who gets the more prestigious East side? Well, you could go with the higher-ranked rikishi, who faced tougher opposition, or you could give it to the rikishi with the winning record. I went back and forth on this, and ended up going with the former for my predictions. The committee, it appears, simply flipped a coin each time, ranking Myogiryu ahead of Tomokaze but Onosho ahead of Okinoumi.

I never even considered ranking Kotoeko, already ridiculously over-promoted to M11e from M15w, where he eked out an 8-7 kachi-koshi, ahead of Yoshikaze (M6w, 4-11), yet that’s exactly what the committee did. I am also puzzled by how Toyonoshima (J1e, 8-7) ended up all the way at M14e, ahead of both Yago, who had a better numerical claim to the rank and was already in the top division, and Kotoyuki, who posted a better rank-and-record combination in Juryo. Kaisei is also lucky to be ranked at M15w (I had him half-a-rank lower) after managing only 3 wins from M8.

Overall, my forecast had 28 of the 42 rikishi at the correct rank, with all but two of these on the correct side. Of the 14 misses, 5 were by half-a-rank, 6 by one rank, and 3 by a rank-and-a-half. Obviously, the biggest beneficiary of the curious decision-making is Ryuden, at the expense of Asanoyama. And rather than distributing the banzuke luck evenly among the upper maegashira, the committee saddled Shodai and Meisei with all of the bad luck, with most of the benefit accruing to Aoiyama and Endo.

July Banzuke Posted!

Fresh to the NSK web site, the ranking sheet for the Nayoya basho.

2 Yokozuna, 4 Ozeki, Mitakeumi and Tamawahsi back slugging it out at Sekiwake. Abi and Ryuden at Komosubi, ready to be beaten to pulp.

Biggest surprise so far? Gagamaru at Juryo 2 West…. in striking distance of a return to the top division? Also a nod to Terutsuyoshi for holding down the final slot in the banzuke. Go team pixie!

Wakaichiro returns to Sandanme at Sd 85e

Then there is the Makushita joi-jin… somebody keep that big wheelchair handy, please. Looks like it cut off Naya and Chiyonokuni at Ms 6. Wow!