Kyushu Jonokuchi

Transport Back to December 1993

Rewind time to mid-December 1993. I sat in my home absolutely enthralled to MTV’s Unplugged as Nirvana played a brilliant concert, mostly of songs I’d never heard before. While several of the more obscure have stuck with me over the intervening decades, one in particular pops into my head whenever I think about a fruitless quest: their cover of the Meat Puppets’ “Plateau”.

*I know the video is not Plateau, I couldn’t find it on Nirvana’s official Youtube site, so enjoy another great video instead.

Many hands began to scan around for the next plateau

Some said it was Greenland and some say Mexico.

Others decided it was nowhere except for where they stood

Those were all just guesses, wouldn’t help you if they could.

– Meat Puppets

As the sanyaku-ranked wrestlers falter, the perpetually injured yokozeki face demotion and retirement, current sekitori will take their place. How many more yusho does Hakuho have left in the tank? Is this the last one? If so, where is the next Hakuho? Is there a future Dai-Yokozuna in the sumo ranks right now? While the Meat Puppets spoke to the futility of knowing the future, it’s still fun to try.

Let’s start our search with the lessons of the past. In May 2001 Takanohana won his ultimate yusho. A young Hakuho made his banzuke debut at that very tournament, ranked Jonokuchi 16 East. He finished with a very inauspicious 3-4. The makekoshi record meant he would remain in Jonokuchi in Nagoya, a tournament won by the Great Kaio with Takanohana kyujo and Dejima falling to Sekiwake. Dejima would remain in makuuchi for another eight years…though aided by a favorable injury policy…a path that should give hope to fans of Takayasu and Tochinoshin. Also note that a young Asashoryu was Komusubi.

As we cast around for the next Plateau, is our next Hakuho (someone who can compete for GOAT honors) in Jonokuchi right now? As much as I’d like to say differently, especially as he hails from my favorite place, it’s very unlikely that it will be Jonokuchi yusho-winner, Tosamidori. His injury-plagued young career is not going to last the rigors of higher ranks. (I want to be wrong. I really want to be wrong and hopefully we’ve got another Tochinoshin here.) I’m eager to see him rise into Sandanme and hopefully further.

Sailing in Shimantogawa, Kochi

Among the other 58 wrestlers in Jonokuchi, we have the young Senho, a protege of Hakuho. Herouth has been documenting the start of his career in her amazing series of Lower Division posts. When I started to look at this division early in the tournament, I made a few assumptions which by the end of the tournament did not hold true. I thought the winner would come from Senho-like group of lower to middling BMI (body mass index) wrestlers. I thought those who debuted this year would far outperform those who have been in the division for several years.

One thing is clear, wrestlers with BMI at the extremes did not perform well. Hattorizakura and Houn sit at the comparatively low-BMI pole (around 21) while Yamamoto, Reon, Kirimaru and Daigonishiki form the high end, between 44-60. None secured more than two wins in Jonokuchi. Being in the middle range does not mean a wrestler is destined to succeed, obviously, as Sawaisamu and Nishikio fall in the same range as the three play-off contenders.

Those playoff contenders, Otsuji, Yutakanami, and Tosamidori, all came from the average BMI range, 35-41. But of the 24 in that range, only about half secured a winning record. We know BMI isn’t everything and does not seem to be a reliable predictor by itself, but it is a factor.

Hakuho is a tall man. At 193cm, he can stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone he faces. Perhaps the next Dai-Yokozuna must be tall? Of the nine tallest rikishi in the division, Senho, Chida, and Satsumao were the most successful with five wins. A third of these wrestlers were kyujo, Yamamotozakura, Kototsukahara, and Toyama. (Kototsukahara did compete once, securing one win.)

Since Senho was the least massive of this cohort, he likely has the most capacity for “bulking up” before it hurts his sumo. He is also the youngest and had his debut this year while several others have been. Senho is not as tall as Hakuho.

Jonokuchi Records by Stable

The heya with the most wins and losses in Jonokuchi was Shikihide. Remember, Hattorizakura counts as seven losses. Yamamotozakura and Reon are hidden here since they were both listed as kyujo for the tournament. Further, Satozakura is an interesting story in that he competed six times this tournament, not seven. He was kyujo on the first day, his only loss being this fusen, with one more absence. He ended up competing once the first week but won every bout on the dohyo. Did Shikihide find the next one?

3 thoughts on “Kyushu Jonokuchi

  1. A couple thoughts

    1) Imagine being one of the seven oyakata whose stables put up worse winning percentages in this basho than Shikihide. I mean, wow. There’s probably more to come from this but when you consider that to your point he’s always going to run out an 0-7 (and a couple others not far off), it’s fairly remarkable for Shikihide oyakata to have that many stables beneath him.

    2) Hakuho was notoriously small when he started sumo (to the point that he was rejected by other stables for that reason), and would have been 16 at that point, so it stands to reason that the height metric may not be the one you want to look for here in identifying the new Hakuho

    3) Would love to see this type of data analysis applied at Makushita level for example.

    4) Agree with the above comment re: Naruto given his stunning track record of recent success, and Miyagino-Hakuho himself.

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