Natsu Day 11 Preview


kaiju mode
Ozeki Terunofuji Headed to McDonalds In Ryogoku, 11:22 PM Tuesday

We Start The Final Act

As we begin the last 5 days of this awesome tournament, it’s time to check up on a few of our story threads

Takayasu’s Ozeki Run – I would declare this on uncertain footing but still quite possible. Takayasu needs to face another Yokozuna who is currently unbeaten, and both Ozeki, one of which is operating in kaiju mode. That leaves him with 2-3 plausible wins, so still possible.

Injured Yokozuna Corps – Kakuryu already has withdrawn. He is probably facing pressure now to retire. He can in fact hang his hopes of delaying that by his November yusho in Fukuoka. Kisenosato insists on competing even though he lacks the strength in his upper body to present a reasonable threat to the upper San’yaku. Harumafuji and Hakuho have reverted to their genki forms, and are unbeaten and undeterred. It’s wonderful to see them both back to their former potency, and we are reminded of how they dominated everything sumo for years.

No-Zeki – Goeido is kadoban, this tournament, and is only 6-4 as of today. It’s not too far of a stretch to think he can pick up 2 more wins, but that’s very weak performance for an Ozeki. This week he faces all 3 Yokozuna, so I would guess at least 2 more losses are inbound. His match with Tamawashi may be the decider. Terunofuji on the other hand seems to be in the same mode he was in during Osaka. That of a rampaging sumo powerhouse with unbeatable strength. He has yet to face any Yokozuna, and I am guessing that he has a fair chance of beating any of them, except Kisenosato. I think he could actually injure Kisenosato.

Mitakeumi’s Komisubi Residency – He was out to strong start, but then hit some very rough patches. Now, Mitakeumi is in real danger of going make-koshi and being pushed back to rank and file Maegashira. I personally don’t think that’s going to harm him, as there is still a bunch of brush clearing that needs to take place in San’yaku before the promotion lanes are actually open. He has faced all of the Ozeki, but still needs to get by Harumafuji on day 11. After that he should draw some easier matches, and may end up 8-7 if he is not too discouraged.

Ojisan Kotoshogiku – We are at day 10, and he is still not make-koshi. His next loss seals his demotion, but he has faced both Ozeki and all three Yokozuna. Is it possible he can win his last 5 matches and escape demotion? Yes, but it would be highly improbably. But look at who he is likely to face: Chiyonokuni (2-8), Okinoumi (1-9!), Daieisho (2-8), Aoiyama (2-8)? We get to Tochiozan before we find a rikishi who is looking strong. So don’t write of Kotoshogiku yet. Then there is the thought of a Shodai – Kotoshogiku match, which might be a big deal.

Upper Maegashira Blood Bath – Ranks M1 – M5 contain 10 rikishi, only 3 of them have even or winning records. This is not atypical by any means, as the upper Maegashira are frequently the punching bags of the San’yaku, but the last few basho had been relatively gentle on these folks. But Natsu has brought the pain back with vengeance.

Juryo Meat Grinder – Upper Juryo is in worse shape than anything I have seen in some time. None of the top 6 Juryo ranks has anyone with more than 6 wins. Without a strong leader or leaders, it throws the promotion picture into chaos. It’s clear that a number of rikishi will be booted out of Makuuchi, but are any of these Juryo guys worthy to replace them?

Osunaarashi In Trouble – He is 1-9 right now. Given that the NSK has given him brutal demotions in the past, it’s reasonable to ask how far down the banzuke he will fall. It was clear from watching him in person that his multiple, unrecovered injuries have robbed him of the physical presence he used to command.

Natsu Leader board

LeadersHarumafuji, Hakuho
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Shodai, Tochinoshin, Ura

5 Matches Remain

* Note, we are almost to the point where the math required for anyone to catch Hakuho or Harumafuji becomes unworkable.

Matches We Like

Kaisei vs Toyohibiki – In spite of his injuries, it seems Kaisei decided he is not going back to Juryo, no matter what. He needs 2 more wins to make that a reality. He has a 10-5 career advantage over Toyohibiki.

Tochinoshin vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu trying for kachi-koshi against a resurgent Tochinoshin. I am looking for Tochinoshin to employ his massive strength and size advantage if he can grab the mawashi, Tochinoshin will be thrusting with everything to keep the big Georgian away.

Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Less of a mismatch than a M7 vs M14 bout should be. If Takakeisho wins, he claims his kachi-koshi. But Chiyotairyu has beaten him 2 out of their 3 times they have matched before. I would guess Chiyotairyu is going to try for a quick slap down before Takakeisho can set his feet and start his sumo.

Ura vs Shodai – Also a match likely better than you would expect with a M10 vs M5 bout. Ura deploy his quantum sumo against Shodai’s flawed tachiai. As Ura will probably go low and crazy, it’s going to be fun to see how Shodai reacts. This is their first ever match. May be the best match of day 11.

Endo vs Yoshikaze – Time to see if Endo learned anything from the Mitakeumi vs Yoshikaze bout. I am guessing he did not. Interestingly enough, these two are tied 5-5 over their career. Endo is looking a bit off now, and may be hurt, where Yoshikaze seems to actually be enjoying himself almost as much as Hakuho is.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyonokuni – Yes, Chiyonokuni is already make-koshi, but he has not been phoning in his matches. He has stepped on the dohyo each day with a plan to win, and he has given it his all. Kotoshogiku has a narrow path to hold onto Sekiwake, and the next step is defeating Chiyonokuni.

Tochiozan vs Takayasu – This is a must win for Takayasu. Given the brutality of the rest of his schedule, he needs to bank this win. Tochiozan is stronger this basho than he has looked since Nagoya 2016, so it’s not a foregone conclusion. Also of note is Tochiozan leads the career matches 18-5, so he has a habit of beating Takayasu. Much as Kintamayama seems to play on it, it does seem true that Takayasu is a chronic worrier, and it may restrain his sumo on day 11.

Terunofuji vs Aoiyama – The only question is what look of pain Aoiyama will have on his face moments after the tachiai. Kailua for the win over the man shaped meat mountain.

Hakuho vs Goeido – Only Goeido 2.0 has a chance here, and it would be so very magical if he appeared and battled Hakuho to a win. But reality says Hakuho is going to play with Goeido for a bit, then toss him around. Success here means that Goeido can come out of it without an injury.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – I am still hoping to see the death-spin. It’s been many months since Harumafuji tried to put a man in orbit, and I do so hope he can pull that one out this basho. Mitakeumi is still going to be a big deal in a while, but day 11 he gets to “enjoy” Harumafuji.

Kisenosato vs Tamawashi – Although Kisenosato has won all 9 of their prior meetings, Tamawashi has a fair chance against the one-armed Yokozuna. I am still looking for Kisenosato to do the responsible thing and go kyujo.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights


Takayasu

The Hard Chargers Already Achieve Kachi-Koshi.

Day 10, we saw a number of hard charging rikishi achieve their tournament winning records, known as kachi-koshi. This includes

  • Takayasu (actually secured day 9)
  • Terunofuji
  • Shodai
  • Tochinoshin
  • Ura

Kisenosato is in a tough spot – he is too injured to be competitive against the other Yokozuna and probably Terunofuji. There is a real chance he could end up with a make-koshi. Does he go kyujo? I think everyone would understand, but his pride would prevent him from sitting out the rest of the tournament. I am sure the NSK is worrying about what to do next.

The mess in Juryo continues to decay into radioactive slag. The chances of anyone being really worth to promote to Makuuchi is quite slime, as everyone in the top half of Juryo (and could be considered for promotion) has a record no better than 6-4. While there are several rikishi in Makuuchi worthy of return to Juryo, it’s going to be a real wild guess how the July banzuke is going to end up.

Takayasu’s Ozeki run has some problems, though he is likely to overcome. It’s the same issue that Kisenosato and Goeido face. With either Harumafuji or Hakuho healthy, it’s really tough towards impossible to be too dominant. With both of them healthy, you have to be thankful for every win in the upper ranks you can score. Fans will recall that this was the status quo for many years, and it’s one of the primary reasons Kisenosato stayed an Ozeki.

Selected Matches

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – This was a bit of a strange match. It quickly went to Yutakayama holding Ishiura by the armpits, with Ishura bent over at the waist with a firm grip on Yutakayama’s mawashi. They stayed like this for quite a while until Yutakayama broke the stalemate, and tossed Ishura like a pizza crust into the Shimpan.

Tochinoshin defeats Daishomaru – Another weird one, there were two mattas, each time Daishomaru attempted a very poor henka without putting his hands on the dohyo at the tachiai. The third try? Henka again, but Tochinoshin was having none of it, and Daishomaru was done. Congratulations to Tochinoshin for a fairly early kachi-koshi

Ura defeats Kaisei – Kaisei seemed to struggle to figure out what to do with Ura, who once again was very low at the tachiai. Ura established a firm double hand flab-hold and began to lead Kaisei around like some kind of farm animal. Ura finished Kaisei off with a rather clever leg trip, and had his 8th win. Congratulations to Ura for his kachi-koshi, too.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Very good bout right from the tachiai. Both rikishi struggled for control back and forth several times, and it seemed that Takanoiwa finally got the upper hand. Ichinojo was able to halt Takanoiwa’s charge at the tawara, and applied a rather well executed tsukiotoshi for the win.

Shodai defeats Sokokurai – Sokokurai had early control of this match, and looked to be in charge. But he could not put Shodai away. Shodai allowed Sokokurai to do all the work, and as Sokokurai tired, Shodai battled him back to the center of the dohyo. Sokokurai rallied and moved Shodai to the edge, but once again could not finish him. With his heels on the tawara, Shodai applied a somewhat clumsy tsukiotoshi to win the match. Shodaim also picks up his kachi-koshi

Terunofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze started out with an attack plan, and engaged with vigor. However, he was up against a kaiju, who had no interest in playing with the berserker. Terunofuji picked him up like a puppy and set him outside the tawara. Yoshikaze to his credit knew the match was lost and went along with it. Terunofuji also hits 8 wins and claims his kachi-koshi.

Goeido defeats Chiyoshoma – Looked like Goeido 2.0. Keep in mind Goeido is kadoban this tournament, and is still 2 wins from reaffirming his rank. He has some tough matches coming up during the rest of this week.

Harumafuji defeats Tochiozan – Showing that he was not as injured as we feared yesterday, Harumafuji launched off the line and pushed Tochiozan directly out. It was no contest.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kisenosato – The sad tale of Kisenosato’s injuries continues. In his loss, the Japanese Yokozuna prolonged the inevitable for Kotoshogiku by another day.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu put everything he had into this match, but he was completely out-classed by Hakuho. Hakuho secured a solid mawashi grip early, and Takayasu struggled to get any traction. As Takayasu struggled to set up a throw, Hakuho decided he was done playing, lowered his head and his hips and drove them both off the dohyo, landing in the first row of zabuton. Some really good sumo. But it’s clear that the last 2 wins Takayasu needs to secure a bit to be promoted to Ozei will not be an easy run.

Natsu Day 9 Highlights


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Daieisho Finally Wins One

The injured Kisenosato gave up his second kinboshi today, this time to a resurgent Tochiozan. It’s been amazing to watch Kisenosato stay competitive in spite of his almost useless left upper body, but perhaps there is now a working formula to defeat him in his weakened state.

Goeido went down to Terunofuji, even though it looks like Goeido 2.0 showed up. With Terunofuji in Kaiju mode, there is not much that can slow him down. On day 8 when he picked up a bulky and squirming Mitakeumi by the shoulders and lifted him past the tawara, it was clear that everyone was in danger.

The other big news is that Kotoshogiku avoided make-koshi today by winning against Endo. Somehow Endo allowed himself to be wrapped up for a hug-n-chug, which Kotoshogiku was all to happy to apply. While it is a reprieve, the chances that Kotoshogiku won’t end up with a strong losing record are incredibly small. Will he endure a demotion back to Maegashira? Or will he take his kabu and retire to a new role helping to run and build the world of sumo?

Selected Highlights

Kyokushuho defeats Chiyotairyu – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho did in fact beat Chiyotairyu, but rather than expected slapping match, it was a straight mawashi test of strength bout.

Tokushoryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama picks up his make-koshi, and will probably be headed back to Juryo, that is if there is anyone in Juryo worth of promotion. This was another really fine mawashi battle that saw both rikishi put forth a strong effort.

Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – Ishiura pulls a henka after a possibly deliberate false start. Normally I would not support henka, but Ishiura is really up against the wall in terms of a winning vs losing record.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – Another battle of the mawashi (it seems to have been the day for it) that saw Kagayaki’s winning streak stopped. Fantastic effort by Onosho to first stop and then reverse Kagayaki relentless forward motion. Once he got Kagayaki moving backwards, it was all over.

Ura defeats Shohozan – Plasticman again stays ridiculously low, and baffles his opponent. The formula seems to be for him to get his opponent wrapped up on his shoulders then push them rapidly backwards and out. Hey, it’s working! Maybe it’s the chonmage-toshi?

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – It was 100% Shodai from the start, as Hokutofuji never got his feet steady. In spite of Shodai’s sloppy tachiai, he was able to get Hokutofuji high and off balance due to Hokutofuji’s even sloppier tachiai today.

Ikioi defeats Takanoiwa – Very quick kotenage from Ikioi. The two grappled briefly at the tachiai, but Ikioi deftly rolled Takanoiwa into the rolling throw and the match was done.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – YES, that’s right, winless Daieisho finally scores his first win this basho, and did it in pretty good style. Watch this one if they show it on the highlights.

Yoshikaze defeats Mitakeumi – A strong start saw Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi locked up at the center of the dohyo, each trying to push the other backwards. Well, it seems to have been a strategy for Yoshikaze, because after a few moments of egging Mitakeumi on, he backed off and slapped him down. A veteran exploiting the rookies bravado and enthusiasm. We still love you Mitakeumi, you are going to be a big deal soon.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Takayasu has his kachi-koshi, but his real goal of 10 wins is still 2 away. Chiyonokuni initiated a vigorous thrusting match at first, but as we have seen this basho, Takayasu stood up to it like a man made of stone. He waited for his opportunity, and grabbed Chiyonokuni’s mawashi and took control. Moments later the uwatenage was applied and Chiyonokuni was on the clay.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – This was all Tochiozan from the tachiai, Kisenosato was high and off balance at once. Tochiozan walks away with his very own kensho Mt. Fuji diorama.

Hakuho defeats Aoiyama – Big Aoiyama had nothing, it was another example of The Boss having his way with any rikishi he faces. May be somewhat unstoppable until he faces Harumafuji.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi actually presented a reasonable challenge for a few seconds, and that just seemed to really fire up Harumafuji, who just poured on the forward pressure. Both rikishi ended up launching into the first row of zabuton. It did look as if maybe Harumafuji had some pain in his knee after their crash landing, we hope he is ok.

 

Back From Japan – Thoughts On Sumo


Banners

Why Can’t It Be A Global Hit?

As many of our readers know, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to travel to Japan for the first week of the Natsu basho this year. It was my first time back in Japan for 30 years, and it was quite a wonderful trip to make. I have promised Andy and others a recount of my adventures there, with tips for other sumo fans wishing to go. That should be posted soon.

But the first thing that hits me is the Japanese nature of sumo, and how it interlocks with the Japanese culture. Those of us who are not in Japan can get our sumo through both official and unofficial means. Official being the 25 minute daily highlight show on NHK World and the unofficial being the wonderful content on youtube.com from Jason’s All Sumo Channel, Kintamayama and One and Only.

Why is it the rest of the world only gets a subset of the bouts in Makuuchi? A hint came to me watching sumo live in the Kokugikan. The pacing is a tough sell to world sports fans that insist on rapid, continuous action. Most people who follow sports find things like baseball too slow, where nothing much might happen for minutes at a time. When the NFL recently started inserting more commercials into football broadcasts, it helped induce their catastrophic drop in ratings. When fans watch football (soccer) in Europe or rugby, the periods are non stop, no commercial festival of people running crazy on a big grassy field. Even then fans sometimes think it’s too slow and awkward – just give us the part where they try for a goal.

Sumo is a few seconds of combat surrounded by minutes of ceremony. Fans like those who read this blog are into the entire package, we dig the ceremony, we dig the build up to battle. We like that each day the intensity and stakes of the matches increase until we end our day watching the top men of sumo slugging it out for the championship.

Sitting in the Kokugikan, there were no announcers in Japanese or English. There is just you and sumo. No overlay graphics showing history, winning moves or the kanji if each rikishi’s shikona at giant size. This is what I would call “Actual” or “Organic” Sumo. Even watching the telecast on NHk with either english or japanese audio subtracts quite a bit from the organic experience.

I submit that this experience, either live or broadcast, does not translate well, and does not offer much appeal to average human beings or even average sports fans. If you “get” the ceremony, and feel the connection it has to the sport, you can and usually do become a sumo fan, and you chafe that these elements are removed from what is packaged and fed to us. It would be as if a great Western had cut out the story behind the gunfight, and just showed two men drawing their weapons in the middle of the street.

It is clear that sumo, as it is constituted right now, is made in Japan for Japanese people living in Japan. It’s not really exported in a form that would make it a world product. In fact, when discussing this with Japanese fans at the Kokugikan, they are completely baffled why foreigners want to watch sumo at all.

It was clear from the stands at the Kokugikan that Sumo has a global appeal, as the second floor chair seats were well populated with fans of European, African and Indian ancestry. But the men who run and control both sumo and the media spectacle that is packaged around sumo are only now starting to realize that there is a significant income and licensing stream possible outside of Japan.

Japan as a culture is very slow to change any traditional institution, and sumo is a very traditional institution. But the time has come for the NSK and the NHK to embrace sumo for the world. I would suggest the following steps

  1. The NSK should appoint/hire foreign language/culture liaisons. These people would ensure that education, outreach and licensing for sumo and sumo merchandise are set up in foreign countries. This could and should open the door for fandom to grow and flourish outside of Japan
  2. The NHK needs to package and make available an expanded sumo feed. I would suggest everything from the Juryo dohyo-iri to the end of Makuuchi. As NHK is now turning more to streaming for global content delivery, this could and should be a value add subscription delivered over streaming content systems. This would allow both NHK and NSK to judge if there is a market for sumo, and it would also make Jason and Kintamayama’s hard work to bring us expanded sumo coverage redundant. And let’s be clear, both NHK and NSK are working to find ways to limit and eliminate Jason and Kintamayama.
  3. I urge them to take a page from the American playbook. If someone is beating you at what should be your own game, put them on the payroll, and let them teach you how to improve your product. Those world sumo liaisons? Jason is already in Japan, Kintamayama is fairly fluent in Japanese, and would be a great resource for advocating broader following of sumo world wide.

Are we likely to see any of this come to pass? Only if us fans urge NHK and NSK to start thinking bigger.

Juryo Thoughts And Observations


Takagenji

It’s A Hot Mess Down There

Reader Tom asked for some observations on Juryo. A real shame of the way that Sumo coverage heads out to the world is that the NHK highlights only show Makuuchi with a rare 3 minute coverage of an interesting Juryo bout.

After watching Juryo for the last several days, I can state that looking at the picture of Makuuchi and Juryo as a continuous spectrum, there are a couple of bright spots, but by an large Juryo has been a holding tank for former Makuuchi rikishi working to get their sumo together to try and stage a return.

A couple of highlights today, Uncle Aminishiki (granted, he is younger than I am), won against Chyoo, to bring his record to 2-2.

Ryuden seems to have a cadre of fans in Japan, but today’s bout against Meisei was fairly flat. The same goes for Seiro, but over the past 4 days, Seiro has shown some real fire and skill, perhaps one of the bright spots in Juryo. Seiro has been on a slow upward path, so his chance of undergoing a massive evolution into a sumo powerhouse is slim.

Hakuho disciple Yamaguchi delighted the crowd today by applying Kotoshogiku style hug-n-chug against Chiyomaru, and it should be noted that the day 2 battle between Asahisho and Takagenji, which featured a late and loud slap delivered Asahisho due to a breach in dohyou manners.

In my opinion, far too many of the Juryo battles seem to be more of a contest of getting by, leading one to consider that far too much Juryo now provides a holding pattern for rikishi, as opposed to a breeding ground for the next generation talent.

Natsu Day 1 Highlights


Title Card 3

Solid Start To Summer Tournament

Day one at the Kokugikan saw a capacity crowd, with fans eager to see who among their favorite rikishi were starting strong, and who they would worry about.

First some notes from Juryo: New entrant Takagengi won his debut match as a sekitori, many will see this as a good sign that the youngster can be competitive in the upper ranks. The match was acrobatic and could have gone either way, but it was good sumo!

Selected Matches

Ikioi defeats Hokutofuji – Ikioi exploded off the line and then overpowered Hokutofuji for a rather straight forward Okidashi

Takarafuji defeats Aoiyama – This match was all over the place, and for some reason Aoiyama trying to grab for Takarafuji’s non-existent neck. Takarafuji stayed mobile and took the punishment waiting for his chance, which came at the edge as Aoiyama tried a pull down, but failed.

Takayasu defeats Daiesho – This was horrifically one sided, with Takayasu in control from the tachiai. Takayasu’s slap down was loud and strong, with some fans gasping as it was unleashed. 9 more wins for a viable chance at Ozeki for Takayasu

Goeido defeats Okinoumi – First of all, I can almost swear that Goeido lost a considerable amount of mass. Secondly, he heavily protected his damaged right ankle, including a move at the edge of the ring that did not look easy or comfortable. I think Goeido has real problems.

Endo defeats Terunofuji – The big Mongolian Ozeki started strong, and went for his favored double outside shoulder grip, but somehow Endo countered or at least stayed away from the edge of the tawara. As Terunofuji went to put Endo away, Endo reached down to grabe Terunofujis (injured) knee. At that point Terunofuji eased up and Endo finished him.

Hakuho defeats Chiyonokuni – The Gyoji almost gave it to Chiyonokuni, but it was clear that Hakuho blasted him at the tachiai. Chiyonokuni as been progressing steadily in the past year, and made a good showing against Hokuho. I should not that Hakuho did not see to be hesitant, favoring any part of his body or injured in any way. It may be the case fans finally can see him in good form once more.

Mitakeumi defeats Kakuryu – Very strong work from Mitakeumi once more. Kakuryu’s reactive sumo left him out of room at the edge and off balance. Mitakeumi was able to finish him.

Yoshikaze defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato looked unsure and unsteady. As noted in prior posts, the kind of injury he suffered usually requires surgery if it can be repaired at all. As a Yoshikaze fan I appreciate his winning, but it’s worrisome to see sumo’s #1 ratings machine in trouble.

More tomorrow as it happens (if the 4G signal can behave) from the Kokugikan.

Handicapping The Natsu Banzuke – Part 3


banzuke2a

The Fish Tank & Fresh Faces

*Updated after reader lksumo pointed out that my spreadsheet had somehow skipped special prize winner Takakeisho. This caused a complete re-compute of the lower 8 ranks.

In the last of our series prognosticating the banzuke for Natsu, we take a look at the lower half Makuuchi, including the rikishi who are likely to be demoted down to Juryo and promoted out of Juryo to the upper division.

As stated in the prior posts, the records at the end of Haru left a chaotic mess for predicting the Natsu banzuke. There were a number of strong finishers in Juryo, and a lot of losing records in Makuuchi. In fact the lower Maegashira suffered a preponderance of losing records, and in fact it was difficult this basho not to promote rikishi with losing records, simply because there were so few winning records, and most of those had already moved up the banzuke into upper Maegashira.

Gone from the upper division is Nishikigi, who had been a lower Maegashira for some time. He will go back to Juryo to adjust and try again. His rank velocity was a horrific -7.5, as he went 5-10 in March. Also back to Juryo is Chiyoo, who was injured and withdrew on day 11, after already having secured his make-koshi. We hope he has recovered and is ready to dominate in Juryo.

Also gone from Maegashira is Sadanoumi who had a 4-11 record in March. His rank velocity was -7, and he was tagged for a return to Juryo fairly early on. Joining him is Mongolian Kyokushuho, whose 5-10 record from Maegashira 14 was his ticket back to the second division.

Joining Makuuchi from Juryo is a set of hard charging rikishi ready to compete in the top division. Chief among these is Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki, who returns after a single basho in Juryo. Tachiai also predicts that veteran Chiyotairyu’s winning record will return him to lower Maegashira as well.

We also predict that Onomatsu beya’s Onosho will be making his Makuuchi debut. This up-and-comer has been in Juryo for 13 tournaments, and finally appears to be ready to join the top division. When filling in the banzuke, it was clear that there needed to be one more name kept in Makuuchi, or brought up from Juryo. I am going out on a limb here, but I am going to predict that Osunaarashi will make his return once more to the top division.

Running everyone’s scores through the magic computations gives us the following list:

East Rank West
Hokutofuji Maegashira 8 Shohozan
Arawashi Maegashira 9 Ichinojo
Kagayaki Maegashira 10 Ura
Tochinoshin Maegashira 11 Toyohibiki
Ishiura Maegashira 12 Onosho
Kotoyuki Maegashira 13 Tokushoryu
Chiyotairyu Maegashira 14 Kaisei
Daishomaru Maegashira 15 Oyanagi
Osunaarashi Maegashira 16

First up at Maegashira 8; Hokutofuji, who drops 2 ranks after turning in his first career losing record. Hokutofuji displays significant skill, strength and fighting spirit. I am going to assume that he will start Natsu with a burning desire to continue his march up the banzuke. At 8 west we find Shohozan, who is part of Kisenosato’s dohyo-iri team. He drops 5 places from Maegashira 3, after receiving a brutal pounding in March.

At Maegashira 9 we find Arawashi who suffered a 5 rank demotion after going 4-11. Arawashi has a lot of potential, but for some reason he was out of his element in Osaka. Joining him is Mongolian giant Ichinojo, who drops from Meagashira 7. In spite of a strong losing record, he was actually less terrible than some of his peers, so his demotion is less severe.

Journeyman Kagayaki, who is still struggling to put together a winning plan for surviving his Makuuchi bouts, holds the east slot for Maegashira 10. Ura was one of the few bright spots in March’s lower Maegashira, and he rises 2 ranks to take the west slot of the 10th rank.

Leading Meagashira 11 is Tochinoshin, who has been seriously hurt for a few tournaments now, and is a shadow of his former self. Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki joins in the west slot, and we predict he will feel right at home resuming his Makuuchi duties after a single basho in Juryo.

Ishiura has been struggling to put together a consistent winning strategy for Makuuchi. His compact size, excellent speed and outstanding strength supply him with a lot of building blocks, but we wait for him to come up with a knock-out combination that shows us what he is really capable of. I suspect he may be getting ready to bounce back from a pair of somewhat disappointing tournaments. Joining him, Onosho makes a strong Makuuchi debut at the rank of Maegashira 12.

Kotoyuki, falls 4 ranks given his dismal 5-10 results from the Haru basho to Maegashira 13. Computationally, I suspect that Kotoyuki will be further down the banzuke, but at the present my calculations are a bit fuzzy on where the Juryo promotees will be inserted into Makuuchi. At 13 west, Tokushoryu, who was one of the few kachi-koshi sumotori from March. He gets a bump up 2 ranks and hopefully can turn in a second winning record in May.

For Maegashira 14, Chiyotairyu returns from a single basho in Juryo. He achieved a winning record from Juryo 1 rank, and will return to Maegashira for May. On the west, we find Kaisei still hanging on to a bert in the top division. Kaisei sat out several days of Haru with injuries, and then joined and had a miserable time of it. Somehow this guy is able to evade demotion to Juryo every time, and I predict that he will somehow survive yet again, albeit at a much lower rank.

Daishomaru drops two ranks to Maegashira 15, after a 7-8 result in Osaka. If he has another losing record he will likely return to Juryo to tune himself up. Bring promoted from Juryo is Oyanagi. This will only be his 8th basho! Oyanagi has experienced a meteoric rise, and is now in Makuuchi after only 3 tournaments in Juryo.

Bringing up the final slot in Makuuchi, is my wish-casting of yet another return of the sandstorm, Osunaarashi, to Maegashira. His last Maegashira appearance saw Osunaarashi become injured, and unable to compete strongly. I will be surprised to see him actually re-joing the top division, but as stated earlier, the lower end of Makuuchi ranking was very difficult this time.

That’s Bruce’s guess for Natsu 2017. As always, please feel free to post your ideas too!