Shikoroyama Beya

With two of Abi’s stablemates (Seiro and Irodori) joining him as sekitori, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at these wrestlers from Shikoroyama Beya. I promise this has nothing to do with his birthday. (Reading that post, one can see how confused I get with calendars: celebrating Abi’s 5/4 birthday with a crack about Cinco de Mayo, published on 5/6.) I digress..

Shikoroyama Oyakata (right) with Abi (left)

The stable is run by the former Sekiwake Terao, whose coached one of his first recruits, Homasho, to sekitori status in 2006. But it took a long time, a full seven years before another stablemate, Seiro, joined the professional ranks in 2013. For the next five years he was a steady Juryo regular until late last year when injury knocked him back to Makushita. Seiro’s style is perhaps the polar opposite of Abi, clearly favoring to grapple as yorikiri accounts for a full 34% of his wins, uwatenage accounting for just over 10.5%.

It is coming up roses in 2019 for Shikoroyama as Seiro rejoins Abi as sekitori as well as newcomer Irodori. It will be very interesting to see if Irodori can surpass both Seiro and Abi. Irodori pairs Abi’s favorite tsuppari-driven oshi attack with a very successful tsukidashi rather than the hatakikomi side-stepping which accounts for nearly 20% of Abi’s victories. Physically, he also seems to fit the tadpole mold, like Mitakeumi, Onosho.

Irodori on the left
Irodori kimarite


Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

How will these March rankings be reshuffled for May?

Do you want to know where your favorite rikishi is likely to be ranked for the Natsu basho without waiting for the official announcement on April 30? Never fear, the crystal ball is here. This time, I’ll give you my predicted banzuke right at the start, and then go through some of the biggest moves and uncertainties.

Haru winning records in green; losing records in red.

Biggest Rises

The biggest rise, 10 full ranks, belongs to Shimanoumi, who vaults all the way from Juryo 1 to Maegashira 8. After spending the better part of four years in upper Makushita and lower Juryo, Shimanoumi broke out with two consecutive 13-2 championships in the second division, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his top-division debut. If my prediction is correct, he will be doing so at the highest rank in about a decade.

Other notable jumps belong to Ichinojo (M4 to Sekiwake), Aoiyama (M7 to Komusubi), Kotoshogiku (M8 to M1), Ryuden (M11 to M5), Yoshikaze (M12 to M6), and Chiyomaru (J1 to M12).

Biggest Falls

There are some doozies here. As you can see in my Juryo forecast, Chiyonokuni will fall from M12 into the bottom half of the second division, but this is due to injury, not performance. He’ll be joined there by M16 Yutakayama, whose drop is entirely due to performance. And Ikioi, who should have sat out the last tournament, will manage the rare feat of falling all the way from M9 to Juryo, becoming the highest-ranked rikishi to drop to the second division without sitting out since Toyohibiki three years ago.

Staying in Makuuchi but falling from the joi-jin into the bottom half of the division are Kaisei (M1 to M9), Nishikigi (M3 to M9), and Tochiozan (M4 to M12).

Best Banzuke Luck

Good banzuke luck refers to being either under-demoted or over-promoted given one’s rank and record as a consequence of other performances. In my forecast, such good luck is entirely concentrated at the bottom of the banzuke. Tokushoryu and Enho are very fortunate to be promoted from Juryo to Makuuchi at all, much less to be ranked M14, but the losing records by everyone ranked M14-M17 at Haru make it pretty much impossible to do anything else. And among that make-koshi crowd, Ishiura and Chiyoshoma are very lucky to cling to the bottom of the top division, and Terutsuyoshi would be ranked lower except for the fact that there’s no one to move ahead of him.

Worst Banzuke Luck

Actually, no ranking in my forecast is unreasonably harsh. The only rikishi with any right to complain are Onosho and Shohozan, and they only drop half a rank further than they “should.”

Biggest Question Marks

Let’s take it from the top of the banzuke.

  • Will Mitakeumi (7-8) get to stay at Komusubi with a half-rank demotion, or will that slot go to Kotoshogiku instead?
  • How far will Tamawashi (5-10) fall from West Sekiwake? Based on recent precedent for sanyaku rikishi, I’ve given him the mildest possible demotion, to M2e, but he could easily end up a rank lower.
  • How big will Shimanoumi’s promotion be? Ranking him at M8e seems pretty reasonable to me, but anywhere from M7e to M8w wouldn’t surprise me, and the banzuke committee could opt to go even lower.
  • How far will Kaisei and Nishikigi fall? I’ve given them relatively lenient demotions because of their places in the joi and the caliber of the opposition they faced, but one could easily argue for placing them a rank lower. The same can be said about Tochiozan, but it’s harder to see who could move ahead of him.
  • What will they do with the mess at the bottom of the banzuke? Having four exchanges between Makuuchi and Juryo makes the most sense to me, but anything from two (with Toyonoshima and Ikioi surviving) to five (with Takagenji trading places with Chiyoshoma) is possible. And when it comes to the precise rankings, any solution that avoids promoting someone with a losing record is a victory.

Tune in at the end of the month to find out how the crystal ball did!

US President Trump To Attend Senshuraku?

This Kabuki-style Trump image was created by atgart, and you can buy copies at Society6

There is a poorly sourced story circulating the Japanese press stating that US President Donald Trump may attend the final day of the May tournament, and join Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to present the Prime Minister’s Cup. Firstly, all of us at Tachiai are careful to stay well clear of politics of any country, as it is a disappointing distraction from sumo. Secondly, I credit Herouth with finding this story.

I would point out that in my estimation, this is someone having a bit of fun with their readers. While it is true that President Trump is scheduled to be in Tokyo during the final weekend of the Natsu basho, his primary purpose is to meet with the new Emperor, discuss bilateral ties with Japan (one of the closest friends of the United States, may it ever be thus), and probably throw a big pile of fish food at some koi. It would be quite unusual for a foreign head of state to attend a day at the Kokugikan, and as far as the US Secret Service is concerned, an unworkable security nightmare.

So for those of you who want to keep political figures out of your sumo, have no fear, I very much doubt this would happen.

Update

Well, maybe I was too skeptical, more information from Herouth’s twitter feed…

Ones To Watch – Post Haru Round Up (Makushita)

Why is this man smiling? Ah yes, kachi-koshi in Makushita joi can feel like winning a Powerball jackpot.

With the glorious Haru basho in the record books, we can now examine how our up-an-coming, and well loved rikishi fared in the lower divisions. While we remarked at length at how brutal the competition was in the top division, the carnage carried down the banzuke to a surprising degree, with many of our “Ones to Watch” going down to make-koshi or squeaking out their final win with their last match.

Today we are looking at the Makushita rikishi, with lower divisions following soon.

Wakamotoharu – The second Onami brother to break into the salaried ranks, he had a disastrous record for Osaka, with only 5 wins against 10 losses. Ranked at Juryo 10, this is quite possibly enough certain to return him to the Makushita joi for May, where he will once again face some of the most difficult matches in sumo.

Hoshoryu – The rising star from Mongolia faced a 3 match cold streak in the first half of Haru, and closed with 3 straight wins to end 4-3. Prior to this tournament, Hoshoryu had been able to dominate the bulk of his matches, and may have found the competition a bit sedate. Ranked at Makusihta 7 in Osaka, he came up against some of the highly motivated rikishi, seeking to mangle each other in search of the final step into Sekitori status. While all of his fans are happy for his kachi-koshi, we expect him to have to repeat this kind of brutal slog at least a few more times before he can make his Juryo debut.

Akua – Electric green Akua went down to his second make-koshi in Osaka, putting his 3rd trip to Juryo further out of reach. Akua has been nursing nagging injuries after being forced to withdraw from the Aki basho on day 12. He has drive, speed and talent, but like so many hopefuls, his body suffers from the brutal pounding that is the top ¼ of Makushita.

Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto blazed a 6-1 record from Makushita 11, earning him a solid berth in the Makushita joi-jin for Natsu, and possibly a shot at Juryo if he can excel one more time. This will be no easy feat given how many strong rikishi had winning records in the top 10 Makushita ranks, who did not end up making the Juryo cut. He’s made one trip to these elevated ranks last summer, but suffered a brutal 1-6 at Aki 2018, and has been pushing to recover ever since.

Midorifuji – Midorifuji came to Osaka at his highest ever rank, and looking to do one thing – bring home 4 shiroboshi and a kachi-koshi. He closed the deal on this proposition on the final day, and assured himself a modest move higher. We will likely see him test his sumo against some of the joi-jin in May, and this might present him his biggest challenge yet. Midorifuji has shown an impressive range of sumo this year, and it’s only March…

Wakatakamoto – The lowest ranking of the three Onami brothers, Wakatakamoto excelled in Osaka, ending with a 5-2 record. Its likely this score will see him in the teens of the Makushita division, and he may find the level of competition a degree more intense than Osaka.

Ura – After a crippling re-injury to his right knee at Hatsu, Ura wasted no time returning to an orthopedic surgical theater, and undergoing a second surgery. He is not likely to return to the dohyo this year, and his Oyakata has indicated to the press that they are in “no rush” and want his recovery to be “perfect”. We could not agree more.

Musashikuni – The scion of the Mushashigawa clan went into the final day of the Haru basho already with 4 losses, but took his third win from Kotodairyu, to ease his fall down the banzuke for Natsu. We know the big Hawaiian has been nursing numerous mechanical injuries, and may have been at less than full health. He is also one of Takayasu’s tsukibeto.

Naya – One of the great stories of Haru was Naya’s bold run to within arm’s reach of the Makushita yusho from Ms51e. He was toe to toe with rikishi ranking well above him in many cases, but continued to dominated his matches. After a less than spectacular result from Hatsu, fans hopeful that Naya may be driving for higher ranks were delighted with his effort.

For a complementary take on the state of Makushita, see Chris Gould’s video below. -lksumo

Breaking: Ex-NFL Star Rob Gronkowski to Join Professional Sumo

Following his surprise retirement last week, the former Patriots tight end has revealed that his next step will be to move to Japan and see how high up the professional sumo ranks he can climb. Gronkowski, who has previously moonlighted in professional wrestling, said that the move was inspired by Tom Brady’s visit to Japan in 2017, when the Patriots quarterback visited Sakaigawa beya and trained with none other than Ozeki Goeido. He plans to use the connections Brady made during the visit to enter the sumo world.

Gronkowski, who stands 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) and weighs 268 lb (122 kg), knows that while he is big for an NFL tight end, he will need to put on some weight to succeed in professional sumo. Having famously not touched any of his career NFL earnings, “Gronk” says that he is prepared for heya life and looks forward to doing the chores that are expected of low-ranked rikishi. “I’ve read John Gunning’s article (on foreigners entering sumo), and I am not taking this lightly,” he said.

You can read the full interview with Gronkowski here.