Kyushu Banzuke Review

The November rankings have been released. On the whole, they turned out to be rather predictable. My Guess The Banzuke entry had 33 rikishi at their exact position, and 3 more at the correct rank but on the wrong side—the closest I’ve ever come to the real thing. Let’s take a look at how the names on the sumo ladder have been reshuffled.

Yokozuna and Ozeki

As expected, the Aki champion, shin-Yokozuna Terunofuji, now holds the top rank of East Yokozuna. Also as expected, nothing changed at the Ozeki rank: we once again have Shodai on the East side and Takakeisho on the West. There is, however, one surprise: Terunofuji is the sole Yokozuna on the banzuke, and there are only 41 rikishi listed rather than the customary 42. This means that Hakuho’s slot was left blank. Given that his retirement wasn’t official by the time of the banzuke meeting, so that the rate M18e slot wasn’t created, the expectation was that the GOAT would appear on the rankings chart one final time. I am not sure whether we can read anything into this, though.

Sekiwake and Komusubi

As expected, East Sekiwake Mitakeumi (9-6) and West Sekiwake Meisei (8-7) stayed where they were, while West Sekiwake Ichinojo (8-7) moved over to the East side. M2w Kiribayama (9-6) and M4w Daieisho (10-5) finished in a virtual tie in the race for the one open Komusubi slot, and I was correct in assuming that the former would make his san’yaku debut by virtue of his higher rank.

Upper Maegashira

With only 7 san’yaku-ranked rikishi, we will need at least 9 rank-and-filers to make up the top-16 round-robin. As predicted, these ranks are occupied by Daieisho, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Takanosho, Okinoumi, Myogiryu, Takarafuji, Endo, and Takayasu. Other than Takanosho, who just missed out on a winning record with a 7-8 score, and Takayasu, who dropped from his Komusubi rank with a 4-8-3 record, this group all had winning records and contains all the outstanding maegashira performances at Aki. This should translate into exciting bouts near the top of the torikumi in November.

What I Got Wrong

Well, I had Endo (M11e, 11-4) at M4e and Takarafuji (M5w, 8-7) at M4w, while the banzuke committee ranked them the other way around. But my big mistake was departing from my usual quantitative approach and guessing that the banzuke committee would further punish Asanoyama by ranking him lower than is usual for an absent Sekiwake. This did not happen—he actually ended up a little higher, at M10w. This led me to miss the placements of Kotonowaka (M11e), Hokutofuji (M12w), Yutakayama (M13e), and Chiyonokuni (M14w), and to place Tochinoshin on the wrong side of M13. I would consider Hokutofuji a strong candidate for Grand Sumo Breakdown’s “snub of the banzuke.”

Juryo-Makuuchi Exchanges

As expected, Tokushoryu, Chiyonoo, Ichiyamamoto and Tsurugisho were demoted to the second division. Replacing them in the top division are Abi, Akua, Sadanoumi, and Shohozan. Kaisei just hangs on to his Makuuchi rank, but at M17e, he has little room for error in Kyushu.

Kyushu Banzuke Questions

I asked the following questions in my banzuke preview post. Let’s look at the answers.

  • Just how high up will Abi be ranked? His sterling performance at Aki and his career-high rank of Komusubi weigh in his favor, while a general Makuuchi bias and perhaps the lingering shadow of his suspension could count against him. Anything from M10 to M15 seems possible.
  • ANSWER: M15w, the lowest possible, below the last top-division incumbent with a winning record, Chiyomaru.
  • Conversely, how far will suspended Asanoyama drop? His Sekiwake rank would normally cushion the fall, but the circumstances of his demotion may more than balance that out. I see him ending up in the M13-M15 range; will he be ranked above or below Abi?
  • ANSWER: M10w, 5 full ranks ahead of Abi and higher than I could imagine.
  • In a similar vein, how much leniency will be shown to the injured upper-rankers Takayasu (4 wins, 2 of them by fusen), M3 Kotonowaka (3 wins), and M2 Hokutofuji (2 wins)?
  • ANSWER: Takayasu got a very lenient demotion to M5e. Kotonowaka ended up roughly where expected (M11e), while Hokutofuji got the short end of the stick (M12w).
  • How many of the whopping 8 rikishi who finished with a minimal 7-8 make-koshi will get to keep their ranks?
  • ANSWER: 4 of them, at consecutive ranks from M8w to M10e: Tobizaru, Aoiyama, Hidenoumi, Chiyotairyu.
  • Will Hakuho’s stablemates—M12e Ishiura, J11e Enho, and J12w Hokuseiho—have their ranks frozen?
  • ANSWER: Yes.

New Recruits: October 2021

The New Recruit exam was today and five newbies were welcomed into the Kyokai.

Isegahama picked up two recruits while Fujishima, Sadogatake, and Arashio picked up one each. Suguro Ibuki, Fujishima-beya’s 24 year old new star, will debut in Sandanme. At 167 cm tall, he’s right at the height cutoff but at 152kg and with a successful amateur career, he will want to compete for the yusho.

All of the others will do their maezumo and debut in Jonokuchi at Hatsu. Asuhada, going to Arashio beya, was the tallest of the bunch at 189 cm (about 6′ 2″), and 150 kg. At 21 years old, he hails from the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, the same region as his new stablemaster, ex-Sokokurai. The final three are youngsters of 17-18 years old. I look forward to seeing them in their kesho mawashi next month!

Birthday Calendar Released

The new Tachiai Birthday Calendar

I have released Tachiai’s new Birthday Calendar. Josh had a couple of very good suggestions, one of which I was able to go ahead and implement for the initial release. The other will take some time, and may need a different dashboard.

I was able to add candlestick charts of Age by Division, and added it to the lower left. The candlesticks give more than the basic average, allowing one a deeper view into the age distribution. While the average age in the lower divisions is lower than Makuuchi, there’s a wider spread with more older wrestlers…notably Hanakaze in Jonidan. It is interesting to see that the average age increases by about a year as you move to higher divisions, but the most outliers are well below Juryo. While young wrestlers progress through the ranks in their career, they drop back down as they age and we see that with this interesting age distribution.

The other suggestion was to look into whether there are more wrestlers who are university graduates. That would mean their entry into Grand Sumo would necessarily be later (and thus older) than previously. Enho, Endo and Myogiryu are examples of university grads who have birthdays this week. Click the link above or you can find the menu item in the main navigation. I don’t want to have it load for everyone visiting the site today, so I didn’t embed it directly into this post, opting for the screenshot above. I’m eager to hear what y’all think!

Things We Learned That Don’t Really Mean Much

Veterans at the ready. Photo credit @nicolaah

In some ways, Wacky Aki lived up to its name. Not because it was a see-saw title race until the end or because there was some kind of crazy left-field title challenger. Indeed, all of the “dark horses” were more or less known entities, or people that could have been expected to run up a double digit score from their respective ranks.

Maybe you’ll say Myogiryu or Onosho aren’t expected to contend, but they’re not Kotoeko or Tsurugisho, or, dare I say it, Tokushoryu. None of the contenders were strangers to the musubi-no-ichiban. There were a few other talking points from the basho though that might fly under the radar, so I’ve assembled some of them here:

Shodai’s kachikoshi

This may not seem like much, but while the Ozeki was maddeningly inconsistent and underwhelming, this kachikoshi means that Shodai will officially have a longer tenure as Ozeki than either recent Ozeki Tochinoshin or Asanoyama.

Tochinoshin is of course in the decline phase of his career and won’t be returning to the rank, and Asanoyama can make it back to Ozeki in 2024 at the earliest following his suspension and fall down the banzuke. While Terunofuji has taught us not to rule anything out, that ain’t likely (even if it does happen, it will likely take more time).

So, Shodai will soldier on. Among other “recent” (last 25 years or so) Ozeki, he can topple Miyabiyama with another kachikoshi in the next tournament, and if he can hang around for another year at the level he can attempt to surpass the likes of Takayasu and Baruto. This is where it’s worth reminding you: we’re talking about Shodai here. He’s always had the talent, but his top division career – including his Ozeki stint – (apart from that magical 12 month run from November 2019 to November 2020, before which he was a .500 rank and filer) could be best described as mediocre.

Takasago beya

Feast or famine for the beleaguered heya. With the former stable master now gone and Asanoyama in the midst of a suspension that eventually will punt the former Ozeki down to Sandanme, there was yet more bad news in the form of shin-Juryo Asashiyu (moto-Murata)’s debut which went all wrong in the form of a 1-14 record. At least it wasn’t as bad as Shikoroyama’s Oki, in his recent Juryo bow. But it continues a worrying trend for in this particular stable, after Asagyokusei similarly not being able to manage a kachi-koshi in the penultimate division in three attempts, and veteran Asabenkei’s last four attempts at the division all ending in double digit losses. At least if you’re a tsukebito, your servitude may not last particularly long.

We shouldn’t feel too bad though. Asashiyu-Murata’s debut itself was something of a feat. Having reached the edge of heaven at Makushita 1, injuries knocked him all the way back down to Jonokuchi where he was forced to restart his career. Now 27, he’ll need to regroup if he’s going to shift through the gears once more, but you suspect having a top heyagashira with something to actually fight for (as opposed to a suspended heyagashira still miles away from his return) might be helpful for the whole stable.

The stable might have a new heyagashira before long though, and it could be one of Asanoyama’s old tsukebito. The rikishi formerly known as Terasawa will make his sekitori debut in the next basho, and as Takasago beya normally gives its rikishi their morning shikona following Juryo promotion, I’m disappointed he hasn’t got Asanousagi. Having instead curiously taken the name Asanowaka, Terasawa was one of two success stories for Takasago in makushita last tournament. You might remember him as the guy who had his practise mawashi stolen with the remains of his dead rabbit inside.

Finally, that second success story would have been the makushita yusho of Fukai, the former Sandanme Tsukedashi debutant who’s made solid if unsteady progress over the past year and a half. Fukai’s yusho sensationally denied the much vaunted Kitanowaka of an automatic promotion (and it was a nice looking win at that, with one of those very satisfying endings that see everyone crash down the side of the dohyo), and the two will hopefully duke it out again next basho from the makushita joi, where they will both be ranked, presumably with promotion on the line.

Oldies Keep Swinging

While recent generations had their one-offs who performed well into their late 30’s (Terao, Kaio, Kyokutenho), one could be forgiven for thinking that the time would come when the current crop of vets would start to get pumped.

Eight participants in the top division are aged 34 or over (including last week’s birthday man Tochinoshin – happy birthday!). Those eight rikishi combined for a record of 59-61.

For sure, this number is propped up by Myogiryu’s championship challenge, but the only really poor result was Tokushoryu’s 4-11 which isn’t all that unexpected from anyone who’s spent part of the year in Juryo.

That almost-.500 record for the vets is reflective of the current mediocre top division quality and it means their decline – which is certainly evident relative to their younger selves in terms of the eye test – has more of a flatline.

As Andy teases a new “birthday” feature for the site, it will be curious to watch the average age of the top division continue to get ever older. You’d think that subtracting a 36 year old retiring yokozuna might help this, but while Hakuho will remain on the November banzuke if not the dohyo, the top division will likely be joined by a trio of 30+ veterans in Akua (30), Sadanoumi (34), Shohozan (37!!), and the 27 year old Abi.

The youth movement that had threatened to wash away the detritus has so far failed to really materialise. Credit must go to Hoshoryu and Kotonowaka for consolidating their positions in the top division for now, but Kotoshoho and Oho haven’t been able to break through or stay through doing to injury or ability respectively, and Onoe-beya’s once heavily hyped 23-year old Ryuko has just sadly announced his intai after a couple of injury plagued Juryo appearances.

The Kyushu basho will, at least, provide some looks in Juryo for Kotoshoho, Hokuseiho and Hiradoumi to hopefully show that there are youngsters who have got what it takes to keep moving up into the top division and establish themselves.

And this may actually be the more telling thing. We know that the age at which a rikishi can break into and stick in the top division is often an indicator of their ultimate final destination in the sport. That inability recently of many to skip through Juryo also owes much to an aged veteran presence in that division. The Mongolian duo of 33 year old Kyokushuho and 34 year old Azumaryu continue to rack up enough wins to hang around the place, and will be joined by Tokushoryu next tournament as he replaces the tricenarian trio who look likely to head up.

Or, it may not be that telling. These are, after all, things that don’t really mean much.