Asanoyama Hideki – 2019
The road to the top
We can’t precisely speak of road to the top, since Asanoyama has not been higher ranked than komosubi – but no doubt he will quickly climb more ranks.
His name’s appearance on that list is already exceptional by itself, since he is the first wrestler of the modern era to earn more victories during a calendar year than anyone else, without being either ozeki or yokozuna – not even a sekiwake ! He shares his place on the list, alongside the greatest names (Chiyonofuji, Takanohana, Asashoryu, Hakuho, etc.).
It took Asanoyama just nine tournaments from his sumo debut to reach makuuchi in September of 2017. He was a makushita champion and lost twice to a playoff in juryo. He was quickly tooted as a possible future star by Hakuho himself.
Asanoyama adjusted to life in makuuchi in 2018, being make kochi three times despite a strong 11-4 result in Nagoya – he chased eventual winner Mitakeumi until late in the tournament.
After more tournaments as a mid maegashira, Asanoyama unexpectedly rose his level, pipping favorite Kakuryu for the yusho in May 2019 – receiving the Emperor’s Cup from the US president’s hands. Again, a maegashira accumplished the feat of lifting the cup.
Expectations rose, too. Asanoyama set lights on him, and, although it’s still early on, he has not disappointed so far. After a honorable 7-8 the next tournament as a maegashira 1, he produced back to back double digits, finishing 10-5 in Aki, and runner up with a 11-4 record in November.
One may argue that Asanoyama beneffited from many absences during a much troubled 2019 year. This is undoubtly true. His total of 55 wins, a makuuchi best, is the lowest ever obtained. Still, Asanoyama’s performances impressed, and can not be described as a mere winner by default.
What to expect next ?
Officially, Asanoyama is not on an ozeki run. He has not reached the rank of sekiwake yet – although he’ll probably get one spot in January of 2020. The last wrestler to be promoted from that « far » was Tochihikari, back in 1962.
However, a strong performance, perhaps couple with a second yusho, could already cement his rise to ozeki. If not, no doubt 2020 will provide Asanoyama more chances to rise through the ranks. Everyone would love seeing him following his illustriate predecessors’ steps.