I want to note that the Kyokai has begun posting profile information about ALL wrestlers, even those down in the lower divisions. This will be a huge help, I think, in helping fans learn about up-and-coming wrestlers.
Intro to Jonokuchi
To recap our little feature from last tournament, I want to learn a bit more about wrestlers and follow their debut tournaments. Unless a wrestler has an exceptionally strong amateur career, earning privileged promotion in Sandanme or Makushita, he will begin his career at the bottom of the banzuke in the Jonokuchi division.
Even Hakuho and Kakuryu started here. Takanohana, Wakanohana, and Akebono did, too. The amazing thing about those last three is that they all started together. Not all cohorts are quite that strong but we sure had a good crop last tournament, culminating in a great yusho race.
A winning record is not necessary to earn promotion from Jonokuchi. Basically, if you can get a win, you can move up in rank, but if it’s less than four wins, the ride up and out of the division is quite a bit slower. If a wrestlers secures a winning record, that will be enough to secure promotion to sumo’s second division, Jonidan. But even less successful promotions are possible here. Sawanofuji, for example, earned promotion to Jonidan with 1 win and 7 losses — yes, 7 losses — from Jonokuchi 10 back in 2017.
Since the wrestlers in the lower divisions only fight seven (or sometimes eight) times, we will treat every other day as one “match day” down here. So, Match Day 1 began on Sunday with Kotoegashira’s bout against Hishuyama, and carried over into Monday where we see Ito’s first tournament Match Day.
Last Basho Recap
In Nagoya, we sure had a treat with quite the yusho race. Shunrai swept through the division, winning all seven bouts and catapulted into the upper-quintile of Jonidan. Several others from that race, like his brother, Kiryuko, are clustered midway through the division and had their first bouts last night. Shunrai came out guns blazing and picked up a strong, quick first win to start the tournament. Kiryuko, Hitoshi, and Nobehara all notched victories as well and look ready to compete for the Jonidan yusho. It will be tough to compete with the Fujiseiun/Osanai showdown from July, though.
On To Aki 2021
There are a lot of familiar faces on the Jonokuchi banzuke this month and two new names, Raiho (left) and Ito (right). Raiho won their maezumo duel with an impressive throw but due to the Miyagino-beya Covid outbreak, he won’t actually be able to compete this tournament. So, we will have to wait for Kyushu to see Hakuho’s latest recruit compete for the Jonokuchi title. (Fellow Miyagino-beya rikishi, Takabaho, will also sit out this tournament.)
Of the old guard, there are a lot of familiar names. Shonanzakura is on the banzuke but he has retired. Moriurara holds the top spot in the division while Shinzan and Sawaisamu are a bit further down. Kyonosato, Itadaki’s favorite taste-tester, looks to be healthy and is probably eager to start moving back up the banzuke. Agazumazakura is a familiar face but has changed his shikona from Shiraishizakura. At least it’s not Wakatakakagezakura. (SHHHHH! QUIET, ANDY!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! DON’T TEMPT HIM!!!!)
This probably gives Ito his best chance at claiming the yusho, instead. Ito Yasuki is cited as coming from Saitama but he attended high school in Aomori at the same school as Onosho and Nishikifuji. Still, his first bout may be his most challenging, against Setonoumi. Setonoumi is a youngster coming off a rather serious, scary-looking injury. He has been featured in Herouth’s coverage before and looks like a solid young wrestler. This will be his first tournament back so we wish him well and will be following his progress.
And that’s why they do the bouts! With a quick hatakikomi, Ito’s yusho hopes have dimmed, though they’re not completely dashed. I do hope Setonoumi continues to avoid a full-on tachiai and I thought I could clearly see some difficulty as he squatted. It may just be me but his neck seems quite stiff.
Given the outcome, from Ito’s point of view, I am reminded of Atamifuji’s first bout against Arauma. He came back and won the yusho in a playoff after that first day loss. Speaking of Atamifuji and Day 1 losses…Atamifuji faced Ishizaki. There aren’t really any “soft” opponents in the top half of Makushita. Thank you to Herouth for finding the video:
I know, “that’s not fair, Andy. This series is about Jonokuchi and you’re here showing us Makushita!” Well, I wanted to. While Atamifuji is a Jonokuchi alumnus, who came back and won his yusho as I alluded to above, Ishizaki is a fortunate one who was allowed to skip the first two divisions and debut in Sandanme. After quickly taking the Sandanme yusho, he narrowly missed out on the Makushita yusho by losing to Hokuseiho on Match Day 7, his only black star of his young career.