Yoshikaze Kyujo

The Kyokai just announced on its official Twitter account that Yoshikaze of Oguruma beya will join Takakeisho on the couch for Nagoya. With a full kyujo from Maegashira 11, this will likely see the veteran demoted to Juryo.

We now understand this to have been a more long term issue. He had surgery to deal with a right knee ligament injury. The initial kyujo announcement seemed to leave the door open to eventual participation in this tournament. However, in light of this news it puts participation in September’s tournament in the air. Full kyujo from a second tournament would jeopardize his rank even further. If he does not participate until November, he would come back in makushita.

Tochinoshin Heads Home, Part I

With Permission from Adjara Sport

Tochinoshin used his brief break from training to head home to Georgia. At the airport he was greeted to a very warm welcome from his fans. In the interview he acknowledged the re-injury to his knee after Day 10, making that final win that much tougher to get…especially after getting robbed of an important win against eventual yusho winner, Asanoyama. He was obviously still able to gamberize and win back the Ozeki rank. Will he be able to move forward and claim his second career yusho?

Thank you to Adjara Sport for sharing and translating this great background video, as well. Their site has a great page featuring more of their sumo coverage, and several interviews in Georgian with Tochinoshin during his recent trip and from before, including this one of a very young, 17 year old Levan. “一所懸命練習します。” With this break from touring, as there’s no jungyo in June, his knees may have gotten the rest and rehab “kneeded” to be ready for Nagoya.

As Bruce mentioned, the health of our Ozeki corps is a concern as we see how long this cohort of four Ozeki will stay together. Herouth noted Takayasu’s absence from events while Takakeisho is slowly returning to training after his kyojo-kadoban Natsu.

Compatriot Gagamaru isn’t forgotten on the Adjara site, and features in this long interview here at the end of last tournament where his 9-6 record puts him in striking distance of a return to the top division. There are also some great general interest sumo videos and highlights.

Nagoya Storyline #4: Juryo Promotions

There was a slew of Juryo promotions this tournament. All five of these wrestlers will find going full time to be a challenge, only Takanofuji has been in Juryo before (we’ll get to that). Are they up for it? Instead of 7 bouts spread over the fortnight, they’ll be battling every day.

Kotokamatani marked the occasion with a new shikona, Kotonowaka. As Herouth mentions below, it’s his father’s shikona. His father reached Sekiwake claiming seven special prizes and eight kinboshi over his career, including Nagoya 1996 with wins over Takanohana AND Akebono.

Matching that legacy requires steady progress, one tournament at a time. From J14W, there’s no room for makekoshi. Kotonowaka the younger began his career in 2016 with the Jonokuchi yusho. He progressed quickly from there, with no makekoshi records until makushita. He’s a balanced wrestler, capable of winning on the belt or with pushing/thrusting techniques though he favors the belt.

Kizakiumi’s amateur success granted him a head start when he decided on the heya life. He started at the bottom of sandanme last year. Like Takakeisho, he’s a strict oshi-battler, winning 80% of his bouts in oshidashi. He’s yet to win a single bout with yorikiri.

Ichiyamamoto debuted in March 2017, and like Kotonowaka, claimed the Jonokuchi yusho in his first tournament, rocketing into makushita by September. He’s an oshi pusher-thruster but has been able to win a few on the belt. I would say that he’d need to perfect that technique to have success beyond this level…but Takakeisho and Abi belie that thought.

Ryuko debuted in the same tournament as Ichiyamamoto. Ryuko failed to pick up the yusho because of his DAY ONE loss to Ichiyamamoto in a dramatic, evenly contested, two minute long endurance bout, shown below in the video from the Japan Sumo channel on YouTube.

Vengeance came, as Herouth covered it late last year, when Ryuko played the old, “I’ve got your leg” trick that Enho’s been playing on people lately. Thus far, only those two bouts in this rivalry but I have a feeling there will be many more, again from the Japan Sumo channel.

Lastly we’ve got Takanofuji, formerly known as Takayoshitoshi, Takagenji’s twin brother. He was briefly in Juryo in March of last year…before he beat his tsukebito. Herouth’s article describes the eventand another describes the punishment. Well, after shedding his old shikona and hopefully the entitled, violent attitude he won last tournament’s Makushita yusho. He’s a straight-forward yotsu grappler without – ironically – his brother’s ability to brawl.

Nagoya Storyline #1: Hakuho, 15 Days? 白鵬は十五日間出来ますか?

The top storyline going into Nagoya must be this man. Will he compete on Day One? If he does, will he be able to withstand the full campaign? The champion’s mindset, however, does not stop there. Hakuho wants to win. From Herouth’s Twitter feed today we see his Tanabata (link to last year’s excellent story) wish, along with the realistic admission that he’s not anywhere near 100%.

Still, his wish is to pick up Yusho #43, 11 clear of the great Taiho. We hope he comes back and comes back healthy. The specter of Kisenosato still haunts the dohyo but with Takakeisho’s participation far from certain, there will clearly be pressures to appear and not go full kyujo for a second straight tournament. Either way, we can only hope for a prudent decision based on fitness. He’s got a full year to make good on the Tanabata wish, no need to rush it.

This year, Tanabata falls on the first day of the Nagoya tournament, so the Rikishi-Kai met and sekitori filled out their Tanabata wishes. So let’s pivot from Hakuho’s grand dream in honor of the early celebration to see what the others decided to wish for. Some, like Meisei, opted for the simple, a Go-Pro camera. I am just waiting for the day when a rikishi sneaks one into the folds of his mawashi and live streams a bout. Then again…maybe not.

Hakuho’s protege, Enho, aspires for the Technique Special Prize. The first concern will be getting a winning record. If he does get a winning record, a technique prize would be fitting if he picks up an extra two wins. According to the career visualizer, 20% of his wins come from shitatenage, just under 14% each from the usual yorikiri and oshidashi, while 10% come from ashitori.

Six or seven of the bouts at the bottom of the banzuke will be competitive with wrestlers who’ve been in Juryo recently. However, there are quite a few bruising barracudas swimming around down there this tournament, looking for breakout tournaments special prizes of their own.

Newly minted sekitori, and nervous looking Kizakiumi is aiming for a simple kachi-koshi, likely just hoping to maintain his professional rank and all the accoutrements that come with it. I’m eager to catch more of this pusher-thruster. 80% of his wins come from oshidashi and he has the curious distinction of making the professional ranks without notching a single yorikiri win. The wise should try to get at his belt.

Azumaryu, on the other hand, is shooting for a Juryo yusho from the top rank in the West. He’s toiled in Juryo for much of the last 6 years. He’s in a prime spot for Makuuchi promotion if he manages a simple 8 wins…but grabbing that title would likely propel him pretty far into the thick of the top division where he could hopefully stay around for a while.

I will wrap things up here with Onosho’s wish because this is my wish for all of these gladiators: good health. I’m shooting for sound mind and toned body myself this year. My son’s been really into soccer so my own game has improved to such a level, and I’ve developed such power in these thunder thighs that I managed to kick the ball straight through our back window the other day. Those sumo squats are paying off.