Josh, Andy and Bruce return in our second segment to discuss the Aki banzuke, and the unusual circumstances that created the 3 by 3 by 3 san’yaku. We take a look at the career of Kaisei on the occasion of his retirement from professional sumo, and we talk about if Tobizaru is finally ready to challenge for a named rank.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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!
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!