Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


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Like every tournament, Wacky Aki will have reshuffled the wrestlers’ ranks. The new banzuke for Kyushu won’t be announced until October 30, two weeks before the start of the basho on November 12. But if you want to get a good idea of where your favorite rikishi will end up being ranked, without having to wait a month, you’ve come to the right place. The banzuke forecast below should be accurate to within one or at most two ranks. There’s one real wildcard this time around, where the forecast might miss wildly, but we’ll get to that later in the post.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

As the only Yokozuna to start, finish, and win the tournament, Harumafuji takes over the top spot, switching places with Hakuho. The other three Yokozuna retain their rank order relative to each other. As the only Ozeki to finish Aki, as runner-up no less, Goeido takes over the O1e rank, switching places with Takayasu, who will be kadoban at Kyushu. And of course, we are down to two Ozeki: Terunofuji will drop to Sekiwake for Kyushu, with one chance to reclaim Ozeki status with double-digit wins. Whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to participate, much less get double-digit wins, is an open question; the same goes for Takayasu, who will need 8 wins to retain his rank.

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze both did just enough at Aki to retain their rank, each going 8-7. They will return as Sekiwake 1e and Sekiwake 1w, respectively. Terunofuji appears at the slightly unusual rank of S2e. Both Tamawashi (7-8) and Tochiozan (6-9) will vacate their Komusubi slots after failing to get their kachi-koshi. Among the higher-placed rank-and-filers, only Kotoshogiku and Onosho earned double-digit wins, and will take over the Komusubi slots.

Upper Maegashira

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

This group is a mix of upper-ranked rikishi who are dropping in rank, but not very far (Tamawashi, Tochiozan, and Hokutofuji) and those in the upper half of the maegashira ranks with the strongest performances at Aki. Depending on the health and participation of the San’yaku ranks in Kyushu, some or all of this group will make up the joi. A case can easily be made for switching the positions of Hokutofuji and Shohozan.

Mid-Maegashira

M6 Chiyoshoma Daishomaru
M7 Tochinoshin Shodai
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyomaru
M9 Endo Ikioi
M10 Daieisho Kaisei
M11 Aoiyama Asanoyama

Twice as many kachi-koshi as make-koshi records in this group. Daishomaru, Endo, and Asanoyama make big jumps up the banzuke after earning double-digit wins at Aki. Conversely, the injured Tochinoshin and Aoiyama take big tumbles. This group also contains the underperforming Shodai and Ikioi. A case can be made for dropping Shodai (and, less likely, Tochinoshin) below Takanoiwa and Chiyomaru, and for dropping Ikioi below Daieisho and Kaisei.

Lower Maegashira

M12 Kagayaki Takekaze
M13 Okinoumi Aminishiki
M14 Kotoyuki Ura
M15 Nishikigi Myogiryu
M16 Daiamami

This group contains one of the worst performers at Aki, Kagayaki, as well as two rikishi who narrowly held on to their places in Makuuchi: Okinoumi and Nishikigi. It also contains the four rikishi who should be promoted from Juryo: top-division returnees Aminishiki, Kotoyuki and Myogiryu, as well as the amusingly named newcomer Daiamami Genki—may he live up to his family given name in his Makuuchi debut. These four take the places of rikishi demoted to Juryo: Ishiura, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, and Sadanoumi.

Now, the wildcard: our favorite pink-sporting rikishi, Ura, who badly aggravated his already injured knee and had to drop out after two days and only one win. Based on a very limited history of similar cases, I placed him at M14w. I’d be surprised to see him ranked much higher, and he could be ranked as low as M16e, or even demoted from Makuuchi altogether, in favor of marginal promotion candidate Homarefuji. Of course, Ura’s participation in Kyushu is a huge question mark at best, but being ranked in the top division would limit the rate at which he drops down the banzuke if he sits out one or more tournaments.

For a Juryo forecast, I don’t think I can do any better than point you to predictions made on SumoForum by frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari and others.

Aki Day 12 Preview


Goeido-Entry

We are working our way towards the conclusion of this really crazy Aki basho, and it’s clear that another loss by Chiyotairyu, and Goeido will be able to claim the yusho. Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others. In fact, having a well known rikishi able to step up and dominate the field of newcomers is probably quite important for fans and actually for the newcomers too. Too much fame too soon can be a poison to any athlete or performers career.

Goeido is now fighting daily like his old self from Aki 2016, and in this mode he is a worthy champion indeed. At one point a few days ago, a reader on Facebook accused Tachiai of “Goeido Bashing”. Some thoughts on that (Bruce’s opinion only here):

I have heard from some readers and fans that they are weary of Tachiai’s Goeido bashing. I welcome all comments and opinions here that come from our readers, as truly the site is nothing without you. So perhaps I can offer an explanation. Let’s start with a contrast.

Take a look at our coverage from Aki last year. We were unabashed raging Goeido enthusiasts, his sumo was amazing, and his accomplishment was literally record-setting. Some links for those who may not have been with us then

Goeido – Redemption
It’s Goeido!
Aki Day 13 Preview
Kisenosato Defeated – Day 11

The team at Tachiai more or less love everything about sumo, and we think that every rikishi has a part to play in this wonderful and amazing sport. We have expectations of the top men of sumo, and we don’t feel they are unfounded, and when there is someone who is amazing as Goeido who choses to win easy rather than win big, we call him on it.

You can bank on the fact that when he does use his amazing offensive techniques to win, we are cheering him on. Tachiai loves sumo. Good, action packed, burly, crazy sumo. We cheer those who deliver, and chide those who would rather not.

Aki Leader board

Short of injury, there is very little chance that Goeido can be derailed from claiming his second yusho. Many sumo fans will grouse about his early match strategy of avoiding the fight, but a win is a win, and this yusho will be just as valid as all the others.

Leader – Goeido
Chaser – Chiyotairyu

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Endo vs. Sadanoumi – Endo has kachi-koshi on the line today, while there are few reasons for Sadanoumi not to worry about a fast ramp down to Juryo for November. Their career record is 4-3 favoriting Endo, but in this tournament, Endo has been looking fairly strong.

Yutakayama vs. Chiyomaru – Yutakayama looking at maki-koshi and a return to Juryo as well should he lose today’s bout. Chiyomaru has faded in the second week, but should be able to give Yutakayama a good fight.

Ishiura vs. Daishomaru – Hapless Ishiura will likely be the prey for Daishomaru’s kachi-koshi bout. I am going to have to assume that at this point Ishiura is damaged in some why, and we just don’t know about it. He can’t seem to buy a win.

Asanoyama vs. Arawashi – Time to see if Mr Happy is going to be able to press for a sansho special prize. He will need to get two more wins before the end of the tournament for consideration, but day 12 against a resurgent Arawashi will be a stiff test. This is their first time meeting, but I would give the advantage to Arawashi.

Kaisei vs. Takarafuji – Takarafuji looks for his kachi-koshi win against a much improved Kaisei. Their career record is 11-9, with Kaisei in the lead, though Takarafuji holds the bulk of the more recent wins. I am expecting a somewhat methodical match between these two.

Onosho vs. Chiyonokuni – Onosho, like many of the tadpoles, faded in week 2. The brutal rotation of this bottom heavy basho has taken its toll on the newcomers, and Onosho is still looking to pick up his 8th win to secure his place for Kyushu. Chiyonokuni has been fighting well, but not winning as much as his frantic action on they dohyo might indicate. Chiyonokuni took their only prior match.

Tochinoshin vs. Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is facing his second career make-koshi today. But Tochinoshin is in “limp home” mode now to be certain. It’s still possible for Hokutofuji to turn things around and eek out a winning record, but he needs to win everything from here on out.

Chiyotairyu vs. Kotoshogiku – Interesting strategic play here. A Chiyotairyu loss would hand the yusho to Goiedo. If you are Kotoshogiku, do you throttle back? I am going to say “no”. A win here today and Kotoshogiku also secures his winning record, and begins to make the case for his return to San’yaku. The Kyushu Bulldozer leads their career totals 5-1, so if Chiyotairyu does not blast him at the tachiai, I look for the hug-and-chug express to be applied with gusto.

Mitakeumi vs. Shodai – Another match of the disappointments. Both are at 5-6, both are looking really stale and ineffective. Shodai holds a slights 5-4 advantage in their career stats, but that may not matter too much for day 12. For Mitakeumi fans, don’t fear for him. Even if he is maki-koshi this time, he will be back. He is an excellent sumotori, but setbacks are to be expected along his road.

Takakeisho vs. Yoshikaze – Now this one has a lot of potential. Both of them are high intensity mobile attack platforms. Takakeisho has shown a preference for yo-yo maneuvers on his opponents, a repeated pattern of strike and retreat. We know that Yoshikaze has a deep bag of kimarite that he does not always reach too deeply into, but I am hoping he can uncork some fun attack got quell Takakeisho. Yoshikazen won their only prior match.

Shohozan vs. Goeido – Big Guns Shohozan will be against Goeido 2.0 or maybe even 2.1 on day 12. I love me some Shohozan power sumo, but Goeido is allowing himself to really execute his attacks at full power now. Goeido holds a clear series advantage at 10-5 against Shohozan.

Tamawashi vs. Harumafuji – Tamawashi has been delivering some really burly sumo the past week, and we know that Harumafuji is soldering on in spite of the pain and the problems. I think all of Harumafuji’s fans just want him to win 3 more and be able to exit Aki with some Yokozuna dignity in place.

Aki Basho Genki Report


Genki-Report

The Injury Count Increases

Once again, we are on the cusp of a basho that is marred by injuries and likely outages for Sumo’s star attractions. Tachiai readers will note that this is part of the longer overall trend, where the men who have dominated sumo for years are reaching the end of their completive period, and the cumulative damage done to their bodies now comes due.

The aggressive rise of a new crop of riskishi, that I sometimes jokingly call the “Angry Tadpoles” can be thought of as the result of two forces. The push factor of their individual training, work, dedication and flat-out skill that propels them to higher ranks. There is also a pull factor of the men who have occupied these positions increasingly being less healthy and able to defend their ranks.

To be clear, I am expecting Yokozunae Hakuho, Kisenosato and Kakuryu to not participate in the Aki basho. I also think it is strongly possible that both Endo and Ura may announce they will not be competing either.

Just from injuries alone, I expect Aki to be a basho that may be dominated by a rikishi who has never before won a basho, and it may be a glorious run.

Rikishi: Hakuho
Genki: ✭
Notes: Last year, the dai-Yokozuna skipped Aki in order to undergo surgery to repair his left knee, and remove a painful bone chip from his right big toe. He drove himself relentlessly to recover to excellent fighting form, and took the May and July tournament championships. But now that left knee is causing him constant pain, and he is likely unable to execute effective sumo.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Harumafuji
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: Do I think Harumafuji is healthy? No indeed. But he is tough and he is going to will himself to compete at Aki, no matter what the pain or discomfort. He has injuries to both knees, both elbows and lord knows what else. But it’s clear he is only going to leave the dohyo when he is too injured to walk.
Forecast: Yusho contender

Rikishi: Kisenosato
Genki: ✭
Notes: Kisenosato has not been training. His body is still weak, and we still have to wonder if his torn pectoral muscle will ever be useful again. Granted he did some training with shin-juryo Yago, but this level of combat is a ridiculously light compared to what he would face in Makuuchi. The YDC has urge Kisenosato not to return to the dohyo until he is fit and ready to compete. We will know he is ready when he resumes training with his stablemate Takayasu.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Kakuryu
Genki: ✭
Notes: Kakuryu is in a weak and perilous position. He has been so wracked with injuries since withdrawing from Nagoya that he has not been training (see a theme here?), and he is in no condition to compete. Furthermore, it has been made clear his next basho really needs to be a strong performance, or he will be asked to retire.
Forecast: Kyujo from day 1

Rikishi: Terunofuji
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: He had to withdraw from Nagoya, as his June knee repair surgery was not healed enough for effective sumo. He took the entire summer off to rest and recover, and seems to be somewhat improved. He has been active in pre-basho training matches, and he even looks to be fairly strong. If he is mended, he is a yusho candidate. But he is one bad fall away from retirement now. Keep in mind, he is kadoban and must have 8 wins to hold on to his Ozeki rank.
Forecast: Double digit wins

Rikishi: Goeido
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Last year Goeido surprised the sumo world by coming into Aki kadoban, and leaving with his first yusho. Furthermore, he was undefeated at Aki, making his victory all the more impressive. Goeido is very hit-or-miss, but his pre-basho training seems to indicate that he is mostly in “Goeido 2.0 Mode”, and could in fact be a contender.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: His conditioning has deteriorated because for several months he has not been able to hone his sumo in daily scrimmage against Kisenosato. As a result, I suspect he is not nearly as ready as he was a year ago, and in fact we may see him kadoban for the first time. His practice matches during jungyo and his inter-basho warm ups have been good but not great. Furthermore, Takayasu has had a bad habit in the past of letting himself worry and over-think his sumo.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Mitakeumi
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Mitakeumi is the chieftain of the Angry Tadpoles, a rank he should wear with pride. He has shown remarkable strength, talent and adaptability in his climb to Sekiwake 1E, and he is now in a spot where he can try to assemble 33 wins. Furthermore, it’s quite clear that like the great Hakuho, he is having the time of his life, and every day on the dohyo is joy to him.
Forecast: Double digit wins, Possible Yusho contender.

Rikishi: Yoshikaze
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: Scarred by years of battle, and once again at Sekiwake (though as the oldest one in the modern era), Yoshikaze is never one to ignore. He can and will beat any rikishi on any given day. In recent tournaments he has shown a fantastic breadth of sumo skills, and never surrenders. There has been some speculation in the Japanese sumo press that he might become the oldest Ozeki ever, but frankly I think “The Berserker” just wants to get the job done.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Tamawashi
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: He has been dethroned from his long term posting to Sekiwake, and it’s now time for him to either fade lower in the banzuke, or battle back to the top. His fans know he has more than enough sumo to re-take his rank from Mitakeumi, but it remains to be seen if he can muster the energy to win.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭
Notes: The big Georgian suffers from injuries that have held him back, but in Nagoya he turned in a strong kachi-koshi to follow up from his Jun-Yusho in May. Many fans expected him to be posted to a San’yaku rank, but he should feel no shame for being the top Maegashira. His enormous strength and nearly boundless endurance means that anyone who dares him to a yotsu-zumō battle will be in trouble.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Kotoshogiku
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Sorry Ojisan, but your time has passed. Listen to your body and retire soon. We all still love you, and your back bends and pelvic thrust sumo will never be forgotten.
Forecast: Maki-koshi

Rikishi: Hokutofuji
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: I am very excited that Hokutofuji is solidly in the upper Maegashira ranks for his second basho. Few rikishi can survive at this level, and this is why you see some favorites yo-yo up and down the banzuke. Hokutofuji, if he can remain healthy, is likely to be a big deal once the current crop of leading sumotori take their bows and retire.
Forecast: Kachi-koshi

Rikishi: Aoiyama
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: For whatever ridiculous reason, this guy got played up as a spoiler to Hakuho’s yusho in Nagoya. Frankly, his sumo was never up to the task of combating even the lower half of Hakuho, let alone the entire Yokozuna. Now he finds himself squarely in the joi, and he has a difficult schedule ahead. He has a very limited range of kimarite, but with few Yokozuna competing, he may not face the pounding he would with a healthy roster.
Forecast: Make-koshi

Rikishi: Onosho
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Onosho faces his first time in the upper part of Makuuchi. As with Aoiyama, the expected Yokozuna recuperation basho will likely give him an easier time than he might have had otherwise. He is strong, he is skilled and like Hokutofuji, he is going to be a big deal if he can stay healthy. Still, I expect he is going to find him self out-matched for now, but he will improve.
Forecast: Make-koshi

Rikishi: Ura
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Ura left Nagoya injured. He was injured to the extent that he did not even participate in any sumo activities over the summer break. Like far too many rikishi, he now faces the prospects of nursing a damaged knee back to usefulness. Prior to the banzuke, many fans (myself included) hoped for a stiff demotion, to allow him time to work in the lower ranks to maintain his sumo while his body healed. Sadly he is once again in danger of being an opponent for the Ozeki and San’yaku battle fleet. At this point his goal must include survival.
Forecast: Make-koshi

Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


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My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai

Nagoya Final Day Preview


Aoiyama2

It’s the last day of sumo until September, and frankly the Nagoya basho has been a lot of fun. As a fan, the unpredictable nature of this basho has kept me focused and looking for the next turn and twist on the road to the end. The road to the yusho has been rather straight the entire time. It’s been all Hakuho. I know that NHK and some in the press are attempting to fan the remote possibility that Aoiyama would challenge on the final day, it will come to naught. I am looking for Yokozuna Hakuho to once again lift the Emperor’s Cup just before I wake for my Sunday.

Even though the yusho is more or less settled, day 15 still has heaps of critical matches, as some rather important rikishi still battle to finish Nagoya with a winning record. This includes:

  • Goeido – I am sure he would rather not be kadoban again, so he must defeat Takayasu. Takayasu looks injured and distracted, so I am giving him better than even odds if he can boot up on 2.0 mode Sunday.
  • Tamawashi – His Sekiwake rank at stake, he needs to defeat a really strong Tochiozan. I am looking for Tochiozan to once again be calm, measured and methodical. This should be a really good match.
  • Daishomaru – They give him Maegashira 1 Takakeisho for the final day, so he really needs to work for this kachi-koshi.
  • Ichinojo (and Sadanoumi) – The schedulers seem to love doing this. Take two rikishi who are 7-7 the final day and make them fight for the winning record. Only one of these guys can get it.
  • Nishikigi – Readers will note I have been following Nishikigi closely the entire basho, as I think his struggle to re-affix himself to Makuuchi is a compelling story.
  • Arawashi – Also left begging on the final day. I do hope he can make it. His opponent is the already deeply maki-koshi Okinoumi

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Hakuho
Bulgarian In Waiting – Aoiyama

What We Are Watching Day 15

Tokushoryu vs Nishikigi – Last chance for Nishikigi to pull this one out and stay in Makuuchi for the September basho. Tokushoryu has had a lousy basho but is probably safe in Makuuchi even with a 11th loss.

Ichinojo vs Sadanoumi – A very Darwin battle – Loser gets demoted and the winner gets promoted. If Sadanoumi loses, he faces a real chance of being sent back to Juryo. Brutal.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – The schedulers finally give Aoiyama a tough match. Hopefully Yoshikaze will give him a vigorous battle. In the past, an effective combat (but disgusting) strategy has been to grab a handful of man-boob and start shoving.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Will Tochiozan do Tamawashi any favors? Tamawashi really likes his san’yaku slot, but Tochiozan as never been afraid to run up the score. I am going to guess these two battle it out for real, and Tochiozan has a career 9-2 advantage over Tamawashi.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido really needs this one, and he has the advantage of fighting an Ozeki that has seemed injured and a bit off his sumo. But historically Takayasu leads 15-8 over their career. An Aki kadoban Goeido would be a terrible thing, because Terunofuji is already kadoban.

Hakuho vs Harumafuji – The big battle to end the basho. On the chance that Harumafuji wins and Aoiyama, there would be an playoff bout between Hakuho and Aoiyama immediately following the bow twirling ceremony. Should this rediculous stunt take place, it may end painfully for Aoiyama.

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights


Takayasu-Harumafuji

It has been a rough morning in Castle Bermondsey, so I do beg forgiveness in being tardy with the update. Many of you will have seen the NHK highlight reel by now. For whatever reasons there seems to be a desire to keep Hakuho from claiming the yusho outright by now. I say this because Aoiyama has had a ridiculously easy schedule. Don’t get me wrong, he still won all of those matches fair and square. But compare this to some prior basho where anyone outside of san’yaku who was close to the leader group was given increasingly difficult matches until they fell away.

For example, you have a Maegashira 8 (Aoiyama) who is on a hot streak. So who does he get for day 14? A Komusubi? An Ozeki? Nah, lets pit him against a Maegashra 12. So there remains an outside tiny chance that Hakuho will lose to Harumafuji on day 15, and we will see The Boss square off against Aoiyama. Followed by several minutes of slow motion replay of Aoiyama’s pendulous man-mammaries swinging wildly as Hakuho batters his up and down the dohyo for sport.

In other news, Ura is now make-koshi, and it is for the best. He has many fans, and they seem to love their little wizard – he is lovable. But he was always going to go make-koshi the first time he faced the san’yaku battle fleet. In the grand scheme of things that would have been Aki, but due to injuries it was at Nagoya. He will come to rest down the banzuke, and with any luck be dominant down there and have a chance to not do further damage to that banged up knee. Trust me when I say, Ura will be back.

Selected Matches Day 14

Chiyonokuni defeats Sokokurai – Chiyonokuni’s rally is a great story coming out of Nagoya. After his turn in the meat grinder as Maegashira 1 during Natsu, he seemed to have started Nagoya down and unfocused. He was able to get his sumo together and return as strong as in the past, and lock down a winning record. Chiyonokuni is another rikishi we will likely see more good things from in the future.

Hokutofuji defeats Ishiura – Hokutofuji picks up kachi-koshi and will be a rank or two higher in Tokyo come September.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – Special prize for Onosho, I will predict. That would be two in a row for his first two Makuuchi basho. Yoshikaze looked like he was not quite fully spun up, and Onosho executed well.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – The big Georgain consigns Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku rank to the past. Really nice execution by Tochinoshin in this match. His return to good form is a welcome development.

Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – No Ozeki run starting for Mitakeumi, there is always next time, but he will get to keep his Sekiwake rank. Tochiozan once again looked calm and worked his attack plan expertly.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido must beat Takayasu on day 15 to avoid the probationary kadoban status.

Harumafuji defeats Takayasu – Harumafuji once again deploys a tottari. Takayasu ends up looking even more hurt. This basho has really knocked him around, and I hope he gets a chance to heal up.

Nagoya Day 14 Preview


dohyo-iri-nagoya13

Special Prize Contenders

Two more days of sumo until September, and the upcoming Aki banzuke promises to be a mad re-shuffle. But before everyone heads off to summer jungyo and awaits their next ranking, the final stanzas of Nagoya will play out. One thing yet to be revealed – the special prize winners. Below are some of my guesses on who could be eligible.

  • Tochiozan – He has been on a huge roll this basho, and will finish with at least 10 wins. He has looked calm, strong and confident in every match, especially his crumpling of Ozeki Takayasu.
  • Aoiyama – While he has yet to fight anyone in the higher ranks, his 11+ wins for the basho are likely to attract the special prize judges. Even thought I think any final day play off with Hakuho is unlikely and ill advised, he will likely end the basho with the jun-yusho, and for a rank and file Maegashira, that’s a praiseworthy accomplishment.
  • Yoshikaze – When Yoshikaze is having a good basho, he is almost always in consideration for another special prize. The guy probably as a whole wall of his apartment with them. He will end with a 9+ win kachi-koshi from the very difficult Komusubi rank.
  • Onosho – The kid has the juice, no doubt about that. He has been consistently excellent, and he is headed for the joi-jin in September. The day 14 Yoshikaze / Onosho match result may decide which of them gets a special prize.
  • Tochinoshin – From the Maegashira 2 rank, he has defeated a Yokozuna, both Sekiwake and an Ozeki, plus will finish with kachi-koshi. This guy has been competing in spite of some really painful injuries, and this kind of record is a testament to his dedication to recover, and his love of the sport.

Nagoya Leader board

This is Hakuho’s basho to lose. The biggest threat is on the finally day, when he will face Harumafuji in the final match of the basho’s final day.

Leader – Hakuho
Chaser – Aoiyama
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Tochiozan

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Yoshikaze vs Onosho – I do strongly suspect the winner of this match will get the special prize nod. Onosho is going to be in the top 3 Maegashira ranks September, and it’s time to give him a taste of some of the rikishi he will face. A genki Yoshikaze is a great place to start, as he will discombobulate his opponent and then defeat them. Onosho has been quite resilient thus far, so I am keen to see how this goes. This the their first match.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – The Kyushu Bulldozer needs to pick up both day 14 and day 15 matches. His record against Tochinoshin os 23-4, so he has history on his side. But Tochinoshin is looking very strong this basho, and it may be down to the big Georgian to end Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku standing.

Tamawashi vs Ura – I am looking for Ura to be in defensive mode, and for this to be a fairly easy win for Tamawashi. I agree and approve of this strategy, as Ura’s make-koshi is a function of his schedule now, and the most important thing to take away from Nagoya now (for Ura) is a body that can be healed enough to compete in the Aki basho in 7 weeks.

Tochiozan vs Mitakeumi – Tochiozan has never beaten Mitakeumi. I am sure Mitakeumi would like to pick up at least one more win in order to punctuate his remaining at the rank of Sekiwake. This match has interest because Mitakeumi’s style is somewhat frantic, while Tochiozan has been very controlled and methodical.

Hakuho vs Goeido – Interesting because Goeido tends to do whacky stuff when he is desperate. And he is quite desperate now. Doing wacky stuff in a match with Hakuho can have unexpected and sometimes amazing results.

Takayasu vs Harumafuji – I expect Harumafuji to handle this without much too much fuss. I would like to see Takayasu at full throttle for this bout (and his Goeido match tomorrow), but he seems injured, stiff and off his sumo.