Matsumoto Kota, New Shikoroyama Recruit, to Join Stable at Harubasho

Shikoroyama-oyakata welcomed Matsumoto Kota, a 3rd-year middle school student to his heya.

He comes over to the stable with the six years of judo experience he’s gathered since he was a third grader in elementary school. As Herouth noted, Shikoroyama wants to ingrain oshi-style skills in his young recruit to avoid injury. A versatile toolset is very important and we wish young Matsumoto well and look forward to covering his maezumo debut alongside the Ukrainian Sergey Sokolovksy.

This Twitter thread highlighted a very interesting point about whether throws and a throw-heavy style (perhaps like Enho’s?) leads to injury any more so than an oshi-style. I was also very interested in the fact that this youngster has elected to skip high school in favor of entering the sumo world. The article mentioned his father’s support and reminded me of the story of my great-grandfather, whose father told him one day that he needed to leave school (at 14) and take a job as a clerk in the local bank.

It’s obviously a big step and a big commitment from such a young kid but he will likely have more of a safety net in “The Heya Life” than what was available to my ancestor. Sumo seems to be a viable lifestyle for young Japanese boys who are not interested in going to join the corporate world and really makes me wonder if such options could be developed in the US, and obviously available to boys and girls.

Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

Paper banzuke being prepared for mailing to supporters

It wouldn’t be a break between basho with the Crystal Ball trying to guess the next banzuke. Since Timothée already posted his guess, I thought I’d go through in a bit more detail how I construct the banzuke projection.

The named ranks

The top three ranks should be unchanged: both Yokozuna entered the Hatsu basho and withdrew after picking up one win, so Hakuho should stay on the East side, with Kakuryu serving as the Yokozuna-Ozeki on the West side. And of course, we only have one (East) Ozeki, Takakeisho.

Asanoyama (10-5) will return as East Sekiwake, while the West Sekiwake slot and both Komusubi slots are open. Conveniently, there are three upper maegashira with strong records to fill them: M4 Shodai (13-2), M2 Hokutofuji (11-4), and M1 Endo (9-6). All three have held san’yaku rank before, which can be a consideration for the banzuke committee, and I’ve ordered them according to what I think will be their order on the banzuke, as the two extra victories for Shodai over Hokutofuji and Hokutofuji over Endo should more than make up for the differences in their previous ranks.

The wildcard here, once again, is whether any extra san’yaku slots will be created. One consideration is that a 7-person san’yaku hasn’t been seen in the 6-basho era (in fact, since 1934), and the committee might feel compelled to to add a Komusubi slot in order to have more potential intra-san’yaku bouts. Given the recent reluctance to add extra ranks except when absolutely necessary, I don’t really see this happening.

The other question is whether a Komusubi slot will be created for the yusho winner, M17 Tokushoryu (14-1). Of the 19 previous maegashira yusho winners since 1958, 16 were promoted to Sekiwake or Komusubi. Of course, many of those were routine promotions from considerably higher rank, but some, like like Takatoriki’s promotion from M14 to K2 after his 13-2 yusho at Haru 2000, involved the creation of a “yusho bonus” extra slot. However, in the two most recent examples, yusho winners could easily have been promoted to san’yaku but weren’t: Kyokutenho after his 12-3 yusho from M7 in 2012, and Asanoyama after his 12-3 yusho from M8 in May of last year. So unless the banzuke committee sees something special in getting to 13 or 14 wins, I’m going to guess that their approach has changed, and that the san’yaku will be limited to the obvious choices.

The rank-and-file

While there are many approaches to building the maegashira rankings, one that gives a lot of insight is to separately rank-order the rikishi with winning and losing records, and then merge the two lists. The start of my process is shown below:

Kachi-koshi rikishi are on the left, make-koshi rikishi are on the right (lots more of those this time). The numbers in the middle indicate the rank the rikishi “should” occupy based on their rank and record in the previous basho, if they were placed on the banzuke in isolation.

In most cases, the rank order of each list is clear. The obvious exceptions are ties. For the KK list, these occur on lines 3, 4, and 13. I give the nod to Okinoumi over Ryuden by virtue of his joi schedule. In fact, Okinoumi might jump over Yutakayama as well, given the latter’s much lower rank. Tochiozan gets the tiebreaker over Terutsuyoshi by virtue of the higher victory total. I think reasonable arguments can be made for any order among Enho (six san’yaku opponents), Onosho (9 wins at mid-maegashira) and Tokushoryu (yusho). And where do we slot in the two rikishi who I think will be promoted from Juryo, Nishikigi and Daiamami? Usually, promotions are placed below Makuuchi incumbents with winning records, and I don’t think either has a strong enough case to buck this trend, so I’ve ranked them below Kaisei.

On the MK side, Tamawashi is the pick over Shohozan because of his joi schedule. Tochinoshin gets the nod over Sadanoumi partly because he faced san’yaku opponents, and partly because Sadanoumi cannot be ranked any higher than M10e, his prior rank. Tsurugisho and Chiyomaru posted identical records at M12e and M12w, respectively, so their order relative to each other won’t change, but it’s not clear whether Aoiyama should be placed above or below them. Sometimes in such cases, the banzuke committee can’t come to an agreement either way and ends up splitting the two rikishi with the same rank and record and inserting the third between them.

Now that we have the two lists, it’s time to merge them. Again, this is straightforward in most cases, especially when we consider the rules that KK rikishi can’t be demoted and MK rikishi can’t be promoted. However, some decisions feel like coin flips: Mitakeumi vs. Ryuden, Kagayaki vs. Myogiryu, Nishikigi vs. Azumaryu, Daiamami vs. Shimanoumi, Meisei vs. Kotoyuki. It’s also unclear how much of a “san’yaku dropout boost” Abi will receive: enough to propel him ahead of the line 4 KK trio, or somewhere into the middle of that already messy situation? After making some fairly arbitrary choices for these cases, I get the guess below (with Kotoyuki at M18e, which doesn’t work on the template I used). The main differences from Timothée’s are: Shodai ahead of Hokutofuji, Kagayaki ranked lower, and quite a few changes among the lower maegashira, including Meisei and Kotoyuki edging out Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi for the last two spots in the top division.

We’ll find out the results in a couple of weeks! In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments.

M3w Kotoyuki 0-0-15 M18

Banzuke prediction for Haru 2020

The first basho has been pretty eventful, with a yusho deciding bout on senshuraku, a surprise winner, and, unfortunately, injuries and a big name retirement – Goeido.

The dust has vanished by now, so this should be a good opportunity to try to guess next basho’s banzuke !

First of all, let’s have a look back at last basho’s banzuke:

Who will drop out ?

How to demote an injured rikishi hasn’t always a clear-cut answer. However, having seen Tomokaze demoted to juryo in January hints at subsequent demotions for Kotoyuki (M3, 0-0-15) and Meisei (M5, 1-7-7). Apart from these inevitable downfalls, everybody looks to have hold up his own, except Kotoeko, whose 2-13 record asks for an obivous demotion – let’s hope he can bounce back.

Who will join maku’uchi ? Lower maegashira issues

Firstly, it’s important to note that, due to Goeido’s retirement, another slot will be opened at maku’uchi’s bottom. I wonder when’s the last time we had a maegashira 18 in the top division…

Just retired: former ozeki Goeido, now Takekuma

It means that the three demotions and Goeido’s retirement will provide four spots. I think the solution is quite easy this time – Nishikigi and Daimami’s impressive 11-4 records will bring them back to maku’uchi, whereas Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi’s 8-7 at juryo 2 has brought uncertainty, but they seem the ideal candidates to complete our banzuke. Kotonowaka would then be shin-maku’uchi.

Set for his maku’uchi debut ? Kotonowaka

Chiyoshoma (J1, 7-8), Wakatakakage (J5, 9-6), Daishoho (J5, 9-6) and Terunofuji (J13, 13-2) all seem to have narrowly missed their chance. But they will all be in good position to storm back to maku’uchi in May.

The middle of the pack – mid maegashira issued

Having determined who will (most likely) be demoted and promoted, let’s not see how our banzuke should shape up:

Our answers about promotions have settled a few spots at the bottom of the banzuke.

The middle of the banzuke has been pretty hard to draw. If you acknowledge Ryuden, Yutakayama and Kagayaki are due to fill some upper spots, and seeing a bunch of make-kochi starting from M9, the result looks a bit artificial.

I surprised myself, in particular, moving Aoiyama down to quite a few slots, despite an afwul 4-11 record at M8 – he finds himself no lower than M12.

Some rikishi (Takanosho, Sadanoumi, both 7-8) haven’t lost a single rank – they’ve just been moved from East to West.

Anyway, I think the banzuke has a pretty decent configuration.

The san’yaku battle – upper banzuke issues

Let’s finish our topic in original fashion – with the top ranks !

Both yokozuna, having won just one bout, should just retain their ranks. As a consequence, Kakuryu, the west yokozuna, will be marked as both yokozuna and ozeki – Takakeisho is the only remaining ozeki after Goeido’s retirement.

Asanoyama failed to get ozeki promotion but has secured his east sekiwake slot with a 10-5 performance.

The debate on who will fill the remaining places is wide open, and guessing right is no simple task. Three candidates are needed after Takayasu, Abi and Daieisho’s make kochi. All three are easy guesses, would I say – Endo (M1, 9-6), Hokutofuji (M2, 11-4) and Shodai (M4, 13-2).

Some believe Tokoshoryu will reach san’yaku. However, I’m quite certain he won’t be promoted that far. Remember Kyokutenho, back in 2012 ? He won the yusho at M7, with a 12-3 record – and ended up at maegashira 1.

Last basho’s surprise winner: Tokushoryu (left)

I might have promoted him a bit too shily, though…

Anyway, the order of Endo, Hokutofuji and Shodai’s promotion is anyone’s guess. I believe the key here is to have in mind that the board is looking for ozeki candidates – the sooner, the better. And I tend to believe Hokutofuji, of the three, will be first on their minds – hence, he’ll grab the second sekiwake slot. And finally, Shodai’s impressive 13-2 record should outclass Endo’s 9-6 result at M1.

What’s your opinion on this banzuke ?