Updated! Kyushu Basho 2020 – Juryo preview, and prediction

So, here we go again! It’s sumo’s last honbasho of the year, and all eyes will be once again turned to makuuchi’s higher ranks. Can Shodai win back to back yusho, for his ozeki debut? Can fellow ozeki Asanoyama and Takakeisho step up, and win their first yusho as ozeki? Will Hakuho and Kakuryu last fifteen days, or will the yokozuna have to retire?

I’m eager to find this out, but would like to provide you with a preview of sumo’s second division, juryo.

Juryo used to entertain us quite a bit in the recent past. Seeing some pixies’ emergence (Enho, Terutsuyoshi, Wakatakakage) has been a joy to watch. Watching Aminishiki hanging on, and poor Gagamaru being henka’d all over the way has added appreciable folklore, too.

The picture is a bit different today. The first obvious feature is the number of former makuuchi wrestlers. Of the twenty eight juryo candidates, only seven have never entered the dohyo alongside san’yaku elders: Midorifuji, Churanoumi, Wakamotoharu, Hakuyozan, Mitoryu, Nishikifuji and Chiyonoumi. This is more than twice less than two years ago, by Kyushu 2018 – fifteen juryo wrestlers had never discovered makuuchi before.

Soon discovering makuuchi’s marvel? Wakamotoharu

True, many of these fifteen have successfully knocked on makuuchi’s door (for example Enho, Terutsuyoshi or Tobizaru). Incredibly, some of them have reached sumo’s first division, and then fell down to makushita, or below (Takagenji, Tomokaze)! Though, as makuuchi got older and older, it was quite natural to see new faces coming from below – with mixed success, obviously.

But, precisely, several makuuchi elders have fallen to juryo – so what to expect from them?

Kotoshogiku (J3w) will undoubtedly be the attraction – seeing a former ozeki back in juryo is not a common thing, after all. His lower body condition will be a giant question mark, though, even to get his kashi koshi. Similar concern surround Ikoi (J8w) and Tsurugisho’s (J9e) final appearance of the year. Both certainly have set their sights much higher than their current rankings, but their bodies currently hardly allow such an ambition.

Shohozan (J2w)has recently struggled in makuuchi, four straight make koshi (7-8, 4-11, 5-10, 5-10) eventually proving fatal. He might regain some energy, though, and manage a straight comeback to makuuchi.

What about both juryo ito wrestlers? Akiseyama (J1e) and Chiyonoo (J1e) have not wrestled in makuuchi for quite some time – March 2016 and March 2017 respectively. If Chiyonoo has produced good sumo by late (10-5 and 9-6 records), Akiseyama’s 11-4 record in September came a bit in the middle of nowhere, following two indifferent basho (9-6, 7-8). Though, I believe the Kise heya resident has good chances to climb back to makuuchi.

Can Chiyonoo (left) join Terutsuyoshi (middle) and Enho (right) in makuuchi?

Other promotions are already a long shot – Midorifuji (J2e) looks like an interesting outsider, but can he secure promotion so early after his juryo debut? I doubt it. For the record, the Isegahama heya resident has just wrestled thrice in juryo so far, and arguably produced just one very good tournament (11-4 in September). Remember, he might find himself a couple times in makuuchi’s torikumi, in November.

Another pixie in makuuchi? Midorifuji

The two exchange regulars, Ishiura (J3e) and Chiyomaru (J4e) often prove a bit too good for juryo, but a bit too soft for makuuchi, and don’t really get storming performances in juryo. That means, both usually get their promotion from an already enviable spot, meaning juryo 1 or 2.

Others could aim juryo’s top ranks by January, in order to target promotion in 2021: Nishikigi (J4w), Hidenoumi (J5e), Wakamotoharu (J6w) and Azumaryu (J7w) could be looking for that. I would not entirely exclude direct promotion for Nishikigi, who definitely have the required potential. He hasn’t looked fit enough recently, though.

Remarkably, I’d certainly put makushita promotee Ura (J13e) in the “looking for more” category! Ura has recovered admirably well from his two terrific knee injuries, and should not spend too much time in juryo – remember the kinboshi he earned against Harumafuji?

The battle against relegation.

Let’s mention one certain demotion: it’ll be Abi’s (J11w) second forced kyujo, following his breach of the Covid rules. He’ll end up 0-0-15, and will start 2021 in makushita.

Both wrestlers ranked juryo 14 unsurprisingly face an uphill task for their survival. Hetouh’s favorite, Chiyonoumi (J14w), did a decent job early on in juryo; he hasn’t managed a single kashi koshi in sumo’s second division since January 2019, however. Fujiazuma (J14e), like Ura, has been as high as maegashira 4, before sliding down all the way back to makushita. He managed one comeback to juryo in 2017, but failed to get his kashi koshi and got demoted straight away. A similar fate might await him here, if he does not better than the 6-9 record he has for his last juryo return, last July.

Nishikifuji’s (J13w) juryo debut ended in frustrating fashion last basho, as he lost his five last bouts to end up make koshi (7-8). He kept exactly the same rank, but will need to gain stamina in order to avoid worse consequences.

Takagenji (J12e) has looked like a ghost on the dohyo since his brother’s dismissal. It took him just over a year to go from maegashira 10 to makushita demotion. He managded to get back to the salaried ranks thanks to a minimal kashi koshi (4-3, being ranked makushita’s top rank). Can he get his career back on track?

Back on track? Takagenji

Jokoryu (J12w) will certainly be another curiosity, down there. The Tokyo-to born rikishi was promised a bright future, as he won the twenty-seven (!) first bouts of his career (excluding maezumo) and entered the salaried ranks just one year after his sumo debut. He went as high as komusubi; but from there, his career went backwards – he actually returned to sandanme, following an injury. Can he keep a juryo spot, now aged 32?

Finally, I tend to believe Hakuyozan (J10e), as well as Mitoryu’s (J11e) reliable juryo stint – he spent twelwe of the sixteen basho he participating in, in juryo! – in decent positions to keep their ranks.

Hakuyozan (left)

All in all, this juryo basho promises quite some fun, doesn’t it?

As a bonus, Andy and I tried our luck in guessing full juryo results after 15 days. Let’s hope we’re not too off the mark!

Here’s Andy’s prediction, with commentaries:

“I think Ikioi is closest to retirement of this group. The past few basho he has not looked impressive. I think there are a lot of talented wrestlers here in different shades of banged up. Several of the young guns may take their shots. I hope Kotoshogiku got in some good time to heal and can come out swinging. I’m not sure about Ishiura at all and I’m sure he won’t go kyujo but I kind of hope he does to heal up.”

Andy’s prediction

And here’s mine:

Tim’s prediction

14 thoughts on “Updated! Kyushu Basho 2020 – Juryo preview, and prediction

  1. Nice try Timithee, but I’m struggling to work up much enthusiasm about juryo this time around. There are too many wrestlers who are either obviously on the decline or as good as they are ever likely to get. If one of the fresher faces can get off to a flying start it would start to get interesting.

    Now makushita is very different. The top end of the division is absolutely stuffed with promising talent and it promises to be an absolutely cracking tournament.

    • Who are your “ones to watch” in Makushita? In the top 5 promotion zone, there’s Naya and Shiraishi. In the top 15, where you need a 7-0 to get promoted, there’s Kitanowaka, Murata, Roga, and Hokutenkai (who just might be the pick of the litter). Anyone else I should be paying attention to?

      • Apart from the ones you mentioned there is Suzuki (highlighted by Tim a while ago), Terasawa and Shiraishi. I have also been banging the Tsukahara drum for a while but he seems to have stalled in upper Ms for a while. I also like Hokutenkai very much, and we will get a chance to see how good he is this time. Hiradoumi is an youngster who has been making steady progress but I admit I can’t recall seeing him wrestle. Of course Yago and Daishoho might just steamroller everyone like hulking teenagers on a little kids’ playground.

        In the top 15 there are 10 men at a new highest rank, which is unusual.

        • Would add not to sleep on Ryuko either who had his injury issues but has bounced back, same as Murata who thundered his way to Ms1 only to get injured and then have to come all the way back from Jonokuchi

          Obviously no 7-0 from either of these guys but still good names. Also under the radar a bit but Takakento has pushed on since the move to Chiganoura beya. Ichiyamamoto looked like he was going to settle in Juryo but had his injury issues so have to imagine he’ll be back soon, and Kaisho. Even beyond the new career high rankers, it is really stacked.

          • I would not rule out 7-0 results from anyone in upper Ms. It’s not like being at the business end of the the makuuchi where you have to square off against all the top guys. It’s pretty much a single elimination (knock-out) tournament. You get matched against men with the same record as you. So if you get a good start and if the top ranked men slip up just once, you never have to fight them and you can sweep to victory culminating in a play-off against someone ranked 30 slots lower. That’s what makes the lower division title-races unpredictable and fun to follow.

    • Makushita is for sure a very interesting division to watch!
      Actually I’m less a fan of the pre retirement home that juryo now looks like. Anyway, I hope to be thrilled just like juryo was trusted by Enho, Terutsuyoshi, Wakatakakage, etc.

    • Juryo, for me, this basho is a question of who will remain after the basho is over. I think all of the rikishi you’ve mentioned in Makushita will crash into Juryo in the next two basho or so., This basho definitely won’t be a “holding pattern” for Juryo at all.

  2. Andy’s predictions never disappoint 😂 If Kotoshogiku and Fujiazuma combine for 25 wins, I’ll take a page from Kintamayama’s book and eat my hat.

      • I prefer to predict the banzuke and the daily matchups to predicting results, but I’ll agree with your prediction that both J14s will go make-koshi and drop to Makushita.

  3. I wouldn’t be so hard on Midorifuji – at least if that’s the rationale – the history books are littered with rikishi who have stormed through the condensed Juryo division in a low number of tournaments. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to yusho or be a makuuchi mainstay when he gets there but certainly he’s capable of getting the 9 wins he needs to go up. I don’t think any of these guys aren’t capable of a kachikoshi at Juryo level so adding another win to that isn’t a huge stretch IMHO.

  4. I like Andy’s prediction, but I think he distributed a few too many wins. I hope for Giku to bounce up again, Ura to stay healthy and Jokoryu not to fall down again. But overall I share the sentiment (like last basho), that I’m not too excited about Juryo, but very excited about Makushita.


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