November Banzuke Crystal Ball

Banzuke Bathroom at Azasu New York

The official rankings chart for the November basho will be released on October 26. In the meantime, it’s fun to speculate about about how the positions of the wrestlers will be reshuffled based on their September results. Please note, I’ve been asked to hold this post until after the Guess The Banzuke deadline, as some players think the predictions might be affecting the game.

There is no doubt about the top eight positions on the banzuke. Barring something completely out of the ordinary, we will have East Yokozuna Hakuho, West Yokozuna Kakuryu, East Ozeki Takakeisho, West Ozeki Asanoyama, and East Ozeki 2 Shodai. The order here is based strictly on the results (or lack thereof for the Yokozuna) at Aki, with the exception of Shodai, as a newly promoted Ozeki (or Yokozuna for that matter) is always ranked below the incumbents. They will be followed by East Sekiwake Mitakeumi, who’ll be moving over from the West side after posting an 8-7 record, West Sekiwake Takanosho, making his san’yaku debut after going 10-5 at M1w, and East Komusubi Terunofuji, who went 8-5-2 at M1e.

Here’s the full prediction for the maegashira ranks. Keep reading below for some thoughts on how I arrived at it (and to see who I think will occupy the final san’yaku slot at West Komusubi).

With everyone in the M2-M4 ranks posting losing records, we have to look lower to fill the West Komusubi and M1 ranks. Three rikishi rise above the rest: M5e Kiribayama (9-4-2), M6e Takayasu (10-5), and M8w Wakatakakage (11-4). Any order among them is defensible, but I think Takayasu’s extra win puts him ahead of Kiribayama for the Komusubi slot, and his prior san’yaku experience puts him ahead of Wakatakakage. I also predict that Kiribayama will be ranked M1e and Wakatakakage M1w, but this is a really close call.

S2e Daieisho (5-10) and M9w Onosho, with a mirror 10-5 record, are the clear candidates for the M2e and M2w ranks, and I’ve listed them in my predicted order, once again going with rank over wins. They should be followed at M3e and M3w by M6w Kagayaki (8-7) and M2e Hokutofuji (6-9). The promotions in this part of the banzuke are very generous, and demotions lenient, a trend that continues down to M7. In fact, everyone from Myogiryu through Terutsuyoshi is pretty closely bunched in terms of their rank-record combinations, and many orderings are defensible. I’ve generally gone with rank over wins, and, following the banzuke committee’s approach from last time, put Takarafuji half a rank lower than his previous position after his 7-8 record, rather than leaving him in place. I’ve given fallen Komusubi Okinoumi and Endo rather favorable treatment befitting their san’yaku status.

Starting with Aoiyama, everyone down to Enho fits pretty neatly into appropriate slots. M4e Yutakayama sees a pretty modest 8-rank drop to M12e given that he only managed 2 wins before pulling out, but this is justified both by his place in the joi and a lack of candidates to place above him. M12w Kaisei (7-8) gets to maintain his rank as the only alternative is over-promoting Hoshoryu, Ichinojo, or Chiyonokuni even more than they already are.

As is often the case, correctly guessing the ranks at the bottom of the banzuke (in this case, M14-M17) is especially challenging. After deciding on likely division exchanges, we need to figure out how to intersperse the rikishi coming up from Juryo among Makuuchi incumbents who just barely escaped demotion. I expect that Abi, Kyokutaisei, Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, and Ishiura will be going down, to be replaced by Chiyonokuni, Kotonowaka, Kotoyuki, Chiyoshoma, and Akua. The first two demotions (and the corresponding promotions) are certain. The next three promotion cases are not that solid, but the rank-record combinations for Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, and Ishiura are so weak that it’s hard to see them staying up. Kotoshogiku, in particular, managed to post only 2 wins at M11. There have been 60 prior instances in the past 60 years of a wrestler ranked M10 or M11 ending up with 2 or 3 wins. Three retired; the other 57 were demoted. Recall that last time, Ikioi dropped to Juryo from M9 with 3 wins. It would take unprecedented leniency by the banzuke committee to keep the Geek in the top division. While Shohozan’s 5 wins at M15 and Ishiura’s 4 at M13 are a little better, these win totals at these ranks have been just as much of a demotion guarantee historically.

The two top-division holdovers in the bottom 7 slots on the banzuke are M11e Chiyotairyu (5-8-2), who did just enough to earn a stay, and M15e Shimanoumi (6-9), whose rank and record would get him demoted on many a banzuke, but I don’t see a viable 6th promotion candidate to take his place (J6e Chiyonoo, 9-6, is the best of the bunch). In general, Makuuchi records hold more sway than Juryo records, as they’re seen to be achieved against tougher competition. I’ve placed Chiyonokuni ahead of Chiyotairyu on the strength of his 14-1 yusho-winning performance and his past track record in the top division, but the banzuke committee could easily flip them. Shimanoumi should get a drop that at least somewhat reflects his 6-9 record, so I’ve placed him below the Juryo rikishi making a return to Makuuchi, but above Akua, who would be making a rather lucky top-division debut.

Quiz ! About shikona changes…

As we previously mentioned it, Shodai decided to keep his shikona following his promotion to the ozeki rank. Let’s try to figure out how much we know about rikishi’s shikona, shikona changes and real names…

As usual, try your best to get your kashi koshi!

1. Let’s start this quiz quietly. Ama became ozeki…

a. Goeido

b. Kakuryu

c. Harumafuji

d. Baruto

2. Which one of these wrestlers is currently fighting with his real name ?

a. Takarafuji

b. Takayasu

c. Takanosho

d. Takagenji

3. Who started wrestling using his real name – Fukuoka ?

a. Hokutofuji

b. Okinoumi

c. Ryuden

d. Daieisho

4. Who is the other Mr. Fukuoka in makuuchi ?

a. Abi

b. Terutsuyoshi

c. Meisei

d. Enho

5. Who started his sumo career with the shikona Wakamisho ?

a. Kiribayama

b. Tamawashi

c. Ichinojo

d. Terunofuji

6. The Bulgarian wrestler Aoiyama was given his current shikona after being asked a few questions about things he likes. What does “Aoiyama” mean ?

a. Red wind

b. Red mountain

c. Blue wind

d. Blue mountain

7. And by the way, Big Dan’s (Aoiyama) real name is…

a. Petkov

b. Dimitrov

c. Kotov

d. Ivanov

Big Dan: Aoiyama Kosuke.

8. Let’s now have some fun (and a few headaches !) with Sadogatake’s wrestlers. Who used to be called Kotokikutsugi ?

a. Kotoosho

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoyuki

d. Kotoshogiku

9. Kotokamatani, on the other hand, is now known as…

a. Kotonowaka

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoshoho

d. Kotoshogiku

10. Whereas Kotoenomoto has become…

a. Kotooshu

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoshoho

d. Kotoyuki

11. And finally, Kototebakari is currently known as…

a. Kotoshoho

b. Kotoyuki

c. Kotonowaka

d. Kotoshogiku

12. Takanohana and Wakanohana are one of sumo’s most famous brothers. Their real name is :

a. Hanada

b. Koga

c. Sawai

d. Hagiwara

A sumo legend: former yokozuna Takanohana.

13. Which one of these rikishi used to be called “Sato” and changed his shikona as he got promoted to makuuchi ?

a. Takakeisho

b. Asanoyama

c. Mitakeumi

d. Shodai

14. Hanakaze is known for his incredibly long career, which started back in 1986 (!). Under how many names has he wrestled so far ?

a. One

b. Two

c. Three

d. Four

15. And finally, the great Hakuho has changed shikona :

a. Once

b. Twice

c. Thrice

d. He never changed his shikona

The answers :

1. Let’s start this quiz quietly. Ama became ozeki…

c. Harumafuji. Of course ! He took that name after his promotion to ozeki, following the Kyushu basho 2008.

Nine time grand champion: former yokozuna Harumafuji.

2. Which one of these wrestlers is currently fighting with his real name ?

b. Takayasu Akira.

3. Who started wrestling using his real name – Fukuoka ?

b. Okinoumi. He actually semmed to have some remorses after changing his shikona to Okinoumi, in March 2009. Two basho after, he went back to Fukuoka Ayumi, during just one basho. He then changed once again – for good – to Okinoumi Ayumi.

4. Who is the other Mr. Fukuoka in makuuchi ?

b. Terutsuyoshi. He has used only one shikona so far : Terutsuyoshi Shoki.

Terutsuyoshi Shoki, also known as Fukuoka Shoki.

5. Who started his sumo career with the shikona Wakamisho ?

d. Terunofuji. Terunofuji likes changes : he used to be called Wakamisho Yoshiaki, then Wakamisho Noriaki, then Wakamisho Yoshiaki again, then Terunofuji Yoshiaki, then Terunofuji Haruo.

6. The Bulgarian wrestler Aoiyama was given his current shikona after being asked a few questions about things he likes. What does “Aoiyama” mean ?

d. Blue mountain. Aoiyama likes blue color, and prefers mountain over sea.

7. And by the way, Big Dan’s (Aoiyama) real name is…

d. Ivanov. Daniel Ivanov, to be exact.

8. Let’s now have some fun (and a few headaches !) with Sadogatake’s wrestlers. Who used to be called Kotokikutsugi ?

d. Kotoshogiku. His real name is Kikutsugi Kazuhiro.

9. Kotokamatani, on the other hand, is now known as…

a. Kotonowaka. Outside the dohyo, he’s Kamatani Masakatsu

10. Whereas Kotoenomoto has become…

d. Kotoyuki, also known as Enomoto Yuki.

11. And finally, Kototebakari is currently known as…

a. Kotoshoho. His real name : Tebakari Toshiki

12. Takanohana and Wakanohana are one of sumo’s most famous brothers. Their real name is :

a. Hanada. Koga is Kaio’s name ; Sawai is Goeido’s name and Hagiwara is former Kisenosato’s name. Some great wrestlers down there.

13. Which one of these rikishi used to be called “Sato” and changed his shikona as he got promoted to makuuchi ?

a. Takakeisho. Asanoyama did change his shikona, but after promotion to juryo. Mitakeumi took just one shikona, whereas Shodai is fighting under his actual name.

14. Hanakaze is known for his incredibly long career, which started back in 1986 (!). Under how many names has he wrestled so far ?

c. Three. He started fighting under his real name, Yamagushi Daisaku, then switched to Tatsuyamagushi Daisaku, and to Hanakaze Daisaku. He holds that name since July 1999 !

15. And finally, the great Hakuho has changed shikona :

d. He never changed his shikona. Hakuho Sho. That’s the GOAT’s shikona.

Simply the best: yokozuna Hakuho Sho.

 

Happy Birthday, Wakamotoharu!

Today is Wakamotoharu’s 27th birthday. Happy birthday, Wakamotoharu!

He was born in Fukushima, and belongs to Arashio stable.

For the record, the juryo rikishi is one of the Onami brothers – his real name is Onami Minato.

Last basho left me quite disappointed, as I wished him to break through makuuchi. After several years spent in makushita, Wakamotoharu finally reached the sekitori ranks, got relegated twice, and eventually looked to establish himself for good in sumo’s second highest division. He actually got his highest rank in Aki 2020, namely juryo 3. Unfortunately, he could not make it – for now – to the highest division, failing to reach makuuchi with a 6-9 make koshi.

Wakamotoharu Minato

Hopefully, he’ll do it in 2021!

I spoke about the Onami brothers – Wakamotoharu actually has one older brother, and one younger bro.

The oldest Onami brother is argubly the least known of the three, namely Wakatakamoto – Onami Wataru is his real name, and will turn 29 in December the 29th. The family’s oldest bro couldn’t reach the sekitori ranks, even if he came quite close in 2018: then ranked at his best, makushita 7, Wakatakamoto couldn’t follow with a kachi koshi, and ended up 2-5 instead. He is currently ranked makushita 22, from where he will slightly slide down the banzuke, following a 3-4 make koshi.

The youngest Onami brother is also the most successful one, and the most famous: Wakatakakage Atsushi!

Establishing himself as a new makuuchi force? Wakatakakage Atsushi

Wakatakakage is notably known for his paradoxical makuuchi debut, back in November 2019. The youngest Onami brother was actually the only rikishi to compete in makuuchi and not to lose one single bout on the dohyo! Sadly, an injury prevented him from competing from day 5, and he ended 4-1-10 – after having won his four first bouts.

He showed glimpses of his talent during the first days, and it was clear it was not the only time we would see him causing headhaches in sumo’s first division. Indeed, he came back in makuuchi after two basho, and got back to back double digit wins: 10-5 in July, 11-4 in September! He’ll turn 26 also in December, the 6th.

But today’s attention is focused on the family’s second born child: once again, happy birthday, Onami Minato!

New stars rising on the sumo horizon!

While having the privilege to witness the East Japan University sumo championships, it’s tempting to try to guess tomorrow’s stars. Doubtlessly, some of them have a bright future before them.

I’m grabbing the opportunity to set my eyes elsewhere, mainly in the upper makushita ranks. Which sekitori hopefuls are on their way to juryo, if not higher ? Who are our best hopes ? Who can match Shodai’s achievement ?

Let’s try to figure this out.

1. Shiraishi Masahito

Shiraishi is the first name that springs to my mind. Alongside Azumaryu and Fujiazuma, his situation has been highlighted last month, as the whole Tamanoi beya was prevented from competing at the Aki basho, due to Covid concerns. The question was, of course, if being kyujo the whole fifteen days would result in a huge demotion. Luckily for them, it was decided the rikishi would just keep their current rankings.

That means Shiraishi will have another shot to enter the sekitori ranks, currently holding the fourth highest makushita rank (makushita 2 West). He entered sumo being sandamne tsukedashi 100, won 7-0 outright, then went 5-2, 4-3, 6-1, 2-5 (his only make koshi), 6-1 and 6-1!

Shiraishi (right) being brought down by Terunofuji in July 2019

Prior to that forced break, the Tokyo-to born wrestler’s rise seemed inevitable. Aged 24, he’s doubtlessly one guy to follow.

2. Suzuki Yuto

The second wrestler I’d think of would undoubtedly Suzuki. He’s from quite a small heya, Fujishima, where’s he’s actually the second highest ranked sumo wrestler, after Bushozan (who I also could have included in that list, by the way!). He’s a nice baby – 181 cm for 145 kgs at his beginning.

Suzuki enterd mae zumo recently, in January 2019, and was ranked jonokuchi 20 in March. For the record – and the comparison is interesting, Terunofuji started his renaissance the same basho, ranked jonidan 48. Suzuki seemed to follow the Mongolian’s path, not conceding a single make koshi along the way (4-3, 5-2, 6-1, 6-1, 4-3, 4-3, 4-3, 6-1, 5-2)! Terunofuji’s last basho – so far – outside the salaried ranks took place in November 2019, then ranked makushita 10. At that time, Suzuki was sitting in the banzuke ranked sandanme 10.  

Aged only 20, he’ll find himself in the upper makushita ranks, and I’m eager to see him show his fledging skills.

3. Kitanowaka Daisuke

I could replicate much of what I said concerning Suzuki – in a slightly improved way, in fact. As heavy as Suzuki, but eight centimeters lighter at his start, he, too, has not conceded a single make koshi. His meteoric rise started two months later – maezumo in March 2019, jonokuchi 16 in May. He conceded just fifteen  losses overall, and will already compete in the upper makushita ranks in November, after a 4-3 winning record in Aki.

Kitanowaka Daisuke

He belonjgs to Hakkaku beya, alongside Okinoumi and Hokutofuji. Without doubt, he’ll benefit from both sekitori’s experience, in order to break through sumo’s highest ranks.

4. Yoshii Ko

Just a bit further down the banzuke, is sitting Yoshii. He belongs to the Tokitsukaze stable, which has recently been on the spotlights – the Shodai – Yutakayama also belongs to that stable.

By the way, it seems I’m not the first one to dedicate some of my time to him – credit to Chris Sumo for that video :

His measurements reminds me a bit of Takakeisho – 177 cm for 150 kg at his beginning.

His overall record is also spotless – no make koshi. He finished the Aki basho with a 4-3 record, ranked makushita 44. What’s more impressive, he’s only 17 !

His elders may be one step forward, but it’s fair to say he’s undoubtedly one of tomorrow’s talents. Good luck, Yoshii !

5. Murata Ryo

Murata sadly allows me to open a consequent chapters on young hopes being hit by injuries. Indeed, wounds are inherent to sumo, and can stop any rikishi’s career at any time. Thinking of Terunofuji, Ura and others is straightforward, but many brillant young guys are easily forgotten, without having been able to show their skills at the highest level. These sad circumstances prevent me from mentionning the likes of Ryuko (currently makushita 20) and many others, as having more successful futures – but who knows.

Going back to Murata, the path he followed is kinda impressing. Propelled to sumo as sandanme tsukedashi 100, he quickly rose to the very first makushita rank, before sustaining grave injuries. As a consequence, he fell right to jonokuchi – after one failed comeback – a division he never met !

That was too little to scare the Mie-ken born wrestler, though : a little bit more than a year later, he’s back to the upper makushita ranks (Ms 16 during the Aki basho), thanks to 7-0, 7-0 (that helps), 5-2, 6-1, 4-3 and 4-3 records.

He’s 26, but obviously still has a lot to offer.

Of course, my list isn’t exhaustive, and we might well see another breakthrough during the coming months.

I’m also keeping an eye on Kamito Daiki, who recently celebrated his 25th birthday.

Finally, I’d mention…

6. Onosho Fumiya

Wait, Onosho ? THE Onosho ?

Absolutely !

Emulating Shodai’s remarkable rise? Onosho Fumiya

As a complement on my last article about Shodai’s ozeki promotion, I’d like to add a few lines about Onosho. I feel these lines were missing.

Indeed, Shodai and Onosho’s careers have followed quite a similar path – until now. Just like the newly promoted ozeki, Onosho quickly through the ranks from jonokuchi. True, he spent some time in juryo, with one downstep to the non salaried ranks. But it took just three basho from his makuuchi debut, in May 2017, to attain san’yaku! Quite impressively, he performed three double digits records (10-5 thrice), before being propelled to komusubi.

As a matter of fact, Onosho never endured a make koshi over fifteen days, in san’yaku. Here’s the sad part : he seemed to suffer from a serious injury sustained in January 2018, which eventually provoked demotion from makuuchi to juryo. If Onosho bounced back without much trouble, thanks to a 12-3 juryo yusho, he has stayed quite anonymously in the maegashira ranks since, just like Shodai did.

If the Tokitsukaze resident suddenly saw his sumo quality improve dramatically, we can only wish similar fortunes to Onosho.

Hakkeyoi !