Hello sumo fans, and welcome back to Tachiai. It’s been seven weeks since the Aki basho, and there is a lot of sumo spring wound and ready to run in our future. The Aki basho left many dangling threads, and more than a couple of rikishi in the middle of career altering changes. Before we get into the daily cadence of the basho, it’s time to take a look at some of what is before us.
Terunofuji Kyujo – The Kaiju is out. He withdrew on day 10 of Aki with a 5-5 record. He underwent surgery to try and extend the service life of his knees. When he was promoted to Yokozuna, everyone knew it was not going to be a lengthy reign, as he had persistent problems with his knees, and it limited his mobility. While it is never wise to trust the Japanese sumo press, they report that he is already recovering well. He won’t participate in Kyushu, and I would not be surprised to see him absent at Hatsu as well.
Mitakeumi Demoted – The Original Tadpole finds himself out of the Ozeki rank less than 1 year after finally achieving that goal. After three consecutive make-koshi results (the middle one was a COIVD-kyujo), he’s at Sekiwake with a one time chance to return to Ozeki if he can put together 10 wins this November. At Tachiai we sometimes call this “Ozeki-wake”, so you may see that term used during the basho. After struggling for years to reach Ozeki, it’s sort of heartbreaking to see him lose the rank, and I personally hope he can get it back.
Shodai Kadoban – Hot on the heels of Mitakeumi is the lackluster Ozeki Shodai. I have no idea what makes this human-daikon hybrid tick, I just wish he would decide if he’s Juryo bait or an Ozeki, and stick with it. When he’s in the groove, his sumo is fun to watch, but he’s not really shown good form in almost two years. Yes he had a good tournament in July, but the ranks were decimated by COVID-kyujo, and frankly he did not look that good.
Wakatakakage Revives Ozeki Run – In March, Wakatakakage took at 12-3 yusho, and everyone was eager to see him follow up with a double digit basho, and stake a claim to the Ozeki rank. What followed instead was a 9-6, then and 8-7. But Aki brought renewed fortunes, and with an 11-4 run, he is back in the hunt for sumo’s second highest rank. With the Yokozuna out, his chances at double digits are somewhat improved.
Tamawashi, Aki Yusho Winner – At 37 years old, sumo’s iron man took his second yusho. His sumo was sharp, and he stayed focused in the final week. Given the log jam in san’yaku, the best he could manage with a yusho was Komusobi 1E, and so he starts is next tournament from there. While I don’t expect him to repeat his yusho run this time out, he’s got many rikishi that have big plans that have to find a way to beat him, and that won’t be easy.
Tobizaru Monkey Sumo Time – Tobizaru is at his highest ever rank, after scoring a kinboshi and a blistering 10-5 score at Aki, the banzuke committee decided for the second basho in a row that they needed a Komusubi 2 rank set, and in came Tobizaru. I think that like Tamawashi, his role here is spoiler for the hopes of Mitakeumi, Shodai and Wakatakakage.
Kotonowaka Atop The Rank and File – Sharing the Maegashira 1 slot with Takayasu is Kotonowaka, fighting at his highest ever rank. After loitering around at Maegashira 2 for three consecutive basho, his 8-7 kachi-koshi in September was enough to bump him to the top. He’s had three Kanto-sho, two of them this year, in his march to this rank, and he’s frankly due for a big tournament.
Nishikifuji In the Joi-Jin – The man turned in back to back 10-5 kachi-koshi since his top division debut in July. This is only his third top division tournament, and he’s in the joi. Now that he’s going to be fighting the toughest men in sumo, we will get to see what his top end really looks like. Frankly, I think this may be the biggest story of the tournament, if he starts well.
Abi Gets Booted Down The Banzuke – After being kyujo for all of Aki, Abi was ejected from his Komusubi 1E rank, and landed with a wet thud at Maegashira 9. If he has returned healthy, he’s going to wreck these guys. I will point out the last time he was down here, he picked up a top division jun-yusho, and I would not be surprised if he was in contention in week 2.
Atamifuji Debuts In The Top Division – He’s been one of our “Ones to Watch” for a couple of years, and he’s been ripping his way up the banzuke. This is only his 12th tournament, and he has only suffered a single make-koshi (7-8) that happened on his Juryo debut. Fans love him, and his sumo is excellent. Is he the next Isegahama star?