Sumo debates for 2020 – 2/3

6. Will Terunofuji compete in maku’uchi in 2020 ? Where will he end up this year ?

The nostalgic question. If Tochinoshin produced the mother of all comebacks back in 2014, rising again from makushita to maku’uchi, Terunofuji’s remarkable comeback is a very impressive one. Still an ozeki in September 2017, he started 2018 as a maegashira 10, lasted two bashos in juryo, and, after finally taking care of his health, went as low as jonidan 48 in March 2019. He just lost three bouts during his return to the salaried ranks, which he achieved at the end of the past year.

Terunofuji’s return has been even more impressive that he stayed weakened. Pictures were circulating on social medias, with Terunofuji’s knees horribly taped. He only managed to do suri-ashi by the end of 2019 – which should significantly improve his chances.

Is he back ? Former ozeki Terunofuji

Many followers – myself included – have fantasied about the former ozeki’s return. Will he return to maku’uchi ? Will he, incredibly, regain his ozeki rank, as prophetized by Murray Johnson ? Or will his progress be halted ?

Herouth answers this question cautiously. Will that change, with the Mongolian’s condition having improved ? Terunofuji set his aim: reaching maku’uchi before the Olympics.

My prediction: it’s hard going against my inner wishes. I’d be foolish, though, not hearing Herouth’s wisdom. I’d say Terunofuji to finish the year in juryo after a stint in maku’uchi.

7. Where will Ichinojo finish the year ?

Makushita or below / juryo / maku’uchi (maegashira) / maku’uchi (san’yaku)

Another question related to injury issues. Ichinojo’s talent is obvious. After a good 2018 year (five tournaments spent in san’yaku), the Mongolian started 2019 equally well – two kinboshi despite a 6-9 record in January, and a career best 14-1 in March led people believe he’d start an ozeki run.

However, Ichinojo’s strength caused him serious back problems – his weight rose up to 230 kg. He had to sit out of the Kyushu basho after having finished the Aki basho with a 1-4-10 record. As a consequence, he will start the new year sitting deep at juryo 7.

I can’t help but have depressing thoughts of a crossed interview of then newbies Ichinojo and Terunofuji in 2014, as they set up a “race” between them towards ozeki promotion. If Terunofuji achieved that feat, they now find themselves together, sadly, in juryo, more than five years later.

Back to fitness ? Ichinojo Takashi

Hopefully, Ichinojo will be rolling back the years. Having lost 24 kg, his weight will appear close to the one he had in 2014, when he got promoted to maku’uchi.

My prediction: I see him back to the maegashira ranks.

8. Will Enho stay in maku’uchi in 2020 ?

A provocative question. Enho is a crowd favorite, and did wonders in 2019. He started the past year at juryo 8, and will start the current one at a career best maegashira 5. He displayed a great variety of techniques, and finished the year with three straight kachi koshi. In his whole career, Enho just had two make kochi – one in juryo in March 2018, and one during his maku’uchi debut in May 2019.

The question is, of course, related to his weight. So far, it is tempting to say that weighing less than 100 kg has been more of an asset than a weakness for him.

Nevertheless, Enho will have some issues to face: will he be able to maintain his impressive form? The crowd favorite started using more deliberate henka’s during the last tournament of 2019. Will he be able to renew his range of techniques, and will he be able to surprise again his opponents ? Or will the surprise effect vanish, and will he slide back to juryo ?

Currently at career best maegashira 5 : Enho Akira

Comparison has been made with former wrestler Mainoumi, who was about the same size as Enho, and had a successful maku’uchi career from 1991 to 1998, being as high as komosubi. True, the average size of rikishi has increased since…

Another example, former Czech wrestler Takanoyama, was less successful back in 2012. He was able to stay in the top division during four tournaments, that year (and in September of 2011, too).

My prediction: Enho’s techniques will continue to work, in the middle of an injury prone field. After a san’yaku stint, he’ll end up safely in maegashira ranks.

9. Will Takakeisho win a second yusho in 2020 ?

I believe Takakeisho’s picture of 2018’s rising star needs an update. Last year, the ozeki was seen as the future of sumo and a possible future yokozuna, assuming he could adapt his variety of techniques. He finished that year on a bang, clinching his first yusho in Kyushu.

Ozeki Takakeisho Mitsunobu

Twelve months later, the picture has changed. His ozeki promotion had to wait until the last day of the March tournament, with decreasing results – 13-2, 11-4 and 10-5. He sustained a first serious injury on his knee, which hampered further steps, and even cost him the newly acquired rank. He went back strongly during the Aki basho, where he was defeated during a playoff, injuring himself on his chest in the process.

Will he bounce back in 2020 ? Can his knees sustain so much weight ?

I express doubts concerning the latter question, and would answer no.

7 thoughts on “Sumo debates for 2020 – 2/3

  1. Question eight. Enho could be a juryo regular. He might fluke a promotion to the big league at some point but he won’t survive there for more than one basho… oh wait, that’s my prediction for last year.

  2. Question 6: It’s hard for me to guess whether he would stay there or not at this point because we do not know how well his legs will recover over the year, but I’m confident that he can reach his goal of returning to Makuuchi before the Olympics. I’ll try to be optimistic and say there’s enough of a power vacuum for him to end the year in the top division.

    I have much less optimism about Ichinojo, frankly. I will be greatly concerned for him if he decides to compete in the upcoming basho, as I would have expected him to miss at least 3 basho while recovering. I have to give a definite no on that one. Sorry, I don’t know how to be fancy and put my no in bold.
    The fact is, Enho already has wins over many of the rikishi ranked above him, like Myogiryu, Kotoyuki, and as I’m sure everyone else remembers, Daieisho. A stint in san’yaku, as you said, seems quite possible at the moment. Hakuho has said Enho has the potential to make Ozeki before, and that’s seeming more possible to me every tournament. He still has to improve, of course, but right now the Sekiwake dream seems like a real possibility. Set your aims high, Enho! Ganbare!
    I think Takakeisho grabbing another yusho is more likely than not. Takakeisho is simply the strongest non-Yokizuna in my opinion. The only reasons I wouldn’t call it a 100% garuntee are another potential injury and the possibility of Hakuho dominating all year. At the very least I think he’ll be winning more titles next year.

    • Thanks , Yamiumu, for that interesting comment! Feeling more concerned about Ichinojo than Terunofuji? Oh my, that really is unbelievable to read! But, unfortunately for the pair of them, that may well prove true…
      I havent Seen that comment of Hakuho about Enho’s ozeki potential. That would be even crazier… not very promising for the rest of the field though… but you’re right, he has beaten well ranked rikishi, including Daieisho…
      My opinion about Takakeisho definitely takes into account the I jury factor – and tries to translate it into facts. Fully feet, he’d be a great force, indeed! He had marvellous bouts at the beginning of the year, defeating Kakuryu, taking down (an injured) Hakuho like a kid. Even that lost rematch against Hakuho in March was a joy to watch. Definitely one of the best bouts of 2019 imo.
      high one has been your favourite.

      • My favourite match of the year? The one match that always jumps out at me first when I think about great matches last year is Takakeisho VS Daieisho from the first day of Aki. You just can see the passion in their wrestling. They just kept headbutting each other, I’ve never seen anything quite like it in Sumo before. Not to mention, Takakeisho’s incredible ability to balance himself in the worst positions was on full display. Watching that match convinced me both of them were more than deserving of the San’yaku positions they have now. It is also why I believe in Enho’s ability to reach Sekiwake even at his current level. Daieisho is no pushover, to be sure, so Enho being able to best him in tournament is a sign to me his rise is the real deal. I agree though, Enho making the Ozeki rank would be all over the headlines. Imagine how much Enho merchandise the kokugikan would be selling if that happened. Miyagino-beya would be drowning in all the kensho-mawashi gifts.

        • You have much greater vision than I do as I cannot imagine Enho reaching Ozeki. I just can’t see it (though I enjoy watching his sumo). One of these days he’ll be crushed like a pancake when he does his limbo move. And that’ll be the end of his run.

          • That’s always part of the risk, especially for someone of his size, indeed. It just takes one bad moment to stretch awkwardly and break his ankle or so. But let’s hope he’ll have a brilliant year 2020!

      • I knew Ichinojo was plagued by injury. I’m happy to see that he is still competing. I have no doubt that he will again live up to the name of ICHINOOJOOOOO!

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