Ones to Watch: Hatsu 18 Wrap-up

With the New Years basho having concluded this past weekend with a wonderful and unexpected result, it’s now time to take a look down the banzuke and check on the overall performances of this tournament’s Tachiai Ones to Watch™. Last time out, we posted a 17-3 kachi-koshi record and collected 2 yusho from the 4 lower divisions.

Results

So, how did our picks do this time?

Kachi-koshi: 1️⃣2️⃣
Make-koshi: 8️⃣
Yusho: 🏆
Juryo promotions: 1️⃣
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – One of our dear favorites locked in his kachi-koshi at the last chance, posting a 4-3 record. We are unabashed fans of Enho, he is exciting and amazing to watch. However, that he was even in the promotion conversation with this record at this rank is a testament to the mess at the bottom of Juryo. He has now been receiving (semi) daily stern tests against rikishi of similar pedigree and veterans who have seen the promised land and do not appreciate being exiled from it. On the face of it, the trip to Juryo may be extremely challenging to him so let’s hope he can gain some good pounds in the right places.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The Arashio bros combined for a 15-6 record driven largely by Wakatakakage’s impressive zensho yusho, which should place him at or near the top of the division for Haru. Like Enho, Wakamotoharu found it tough in the insanely congested top of the Makushita division, falling to a 3-4 record, and should find himself near enough to Wakatakamoto whose 5 win basho should propel him near enough the top quarter of the division. Should those two post similar records next time out it might make things interesting for the schedulers! If we’re going to look at areas of improvement, Wakamotoharu may need the opposite plan as Enho going forward as he handled the veterans nicely but tended to struggle against the up and coming rikishi.

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – Murata, who debuted at the same time with Wakatakakage and who had largely matched his progress, will fall back behind his rival having suffered the narrowest of make-koshi. In fairness, having come through a horrendous start, he recovered nicely in the last couple of matches to ensure his demotion will not be too extreme. If we’re going to look for a highlight, his second bout match against the triple lower division yusho winner and Kokonoe up-and-comer Chiyonoumi might provide a key for future success – he’s able to stand his ground against a composed opponent and use his mass and pushing/thrusting to keep moving forward and move him out (hat tip to One and Only for the video coverage):

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – It’s another solid kachi-koshi at 5-2 for Nishonoseki’s university man, who just continues to progress. Ichiyamamoto is an extreme pusher-thruster and it will be interesting to watch his results as he starts now to come up against rikishi with a better plan at the tachiai. Gochozan’s revenge win against him in this tournament was a case of a match that started as a pushing festival and ended up with Ichiyamamoto’s arms getting locked up and not really having much of a plan B. If someone’s going to lock up his arms he may struggle, but if he can establish his pushing attack he’s a difficult rikishi to beat at this level.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Owing to the flu circulating Isegahama-beya, we’re going to have to give Nishikifuji a pass on an awful 1-5-1 tournament that blighted an otherwise brilliant start to his career. The banzuke makers of course will not be so kind, but the last time that a 1 win tournament at his rank wasn’t enough to keep a rikishi in this division was 1948. He put up 6 wins at Ms52 last time out and that’s probably about where we’ll see him next time and will expect him to restart his progress.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another solid tournament for Ryuko who makes it three consecutive 5-2s to follow the three consecutive 6-1s to open his career. Intriguingly, he used a greater variety of winning techniques here than some of his contemporaries higher up on this post. While he certainly gets his share of oshi- wins, over the last two tournaments he has started mixing in throws. Only one of them seems to have been particularly well executed (in Kyushu against Ikeru) but that also may come down to the quality of opponent. It’s going to be interesting to see how he mixes and matches and whether his strategy will continue to develop as he reaches the higher levels.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – It’s another really solid start to Tomokaze’s career, and after 4 basho he should find himself placed solidly in the upper part of the division after putting up 5 more wins here. Had he not run into Wakatakamoto in the middle of the tournament, it would have been interesting to see if he could challenge for yet another yusho, but as it stands the Oguruma man (who dealt with Ryuko for the first time in the early stages of Hatsu) will be pleased with his progress as he develops into a large and physical rikishi. What happens to his mobility as his size increases will be an interesting watch.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I had picked Musashikuni almost more as a “draft and follow” kind of guy than an immediate one to watch. I thought he had a good chance this time out at handling the opposition at this rank, but it never really came together until the end of a 3-4 tournament that will leave him as very much an edge case for remaining in the division for Osaka. This is more of a long term choice and we’re going to stick with him next time out and, like his stablemate Wakaichiro, continue to bet on his potential.

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe had absolutely coasted through the bottom 3 divisions and even started here with 2 wins from 3 but in truth I could tell after seeing him in person on Day 2 that this was not going to be his basho, and from the midway point he completely unraveled with 4 straight losses (to end 2-5), the lowlight of which was a shocking ashitori from Amanoshima on Day 11. He has “bouncebackability” to be sure, but he’s going to need some serious keiko to right the ship and prepare for another assault on promotion back to Makushita.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama pulls out a last ditch kachi-koshi which will secure his promotion up to Makushita. While he started his career strong with 3 straight 6 win tournaments, his progress has slowed and it will be interesting to see if he can better the results of his rival Tanabe, who he has never beaten, in his debut at the next level.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – We doubted Shoji’s ability to pull off the third consecutive yusho on his Sandanme debut and that hesitation proved to be well-founded as he finished with his first career make-koshi at 3-4. That all being said, he improved in the latter half of the basho and won’t fall so far down that a good tournament next time won’t propel him forward, so the Musashigawa man will hope this is a minor setback. This is the first tournament where it could be argued Shoji didn’t face anyone of a similar pedigree or level of progression (and that may continue to be the case) so how he deals with more of a mixed bag of veteran opponents will determine his future.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Kotokumazoe’s hot comeback run was stopped dead in its tracks with 3 straight losses, but the Sadogatake man did well over the last week to finish 3-1 and end with a narrow make-koshi at what was his highest career posting to date. His thrust-heavy attack didn’t look especially inspired in either of the matches for which there is video footage but his persistence in his day 15 win against Tochikasuga at least gives some reason for optimism.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – A tournament to forget for Torakio who started strong and ended injured. We thought he’d fare better than Shoji this time out, and he started strong at 2-0 but dropped 4 straight before going kyujo, the final two of which culminated in injury-inspiring and frankly very painful looking throws. However before this, what was clear from all 4 losses was that despite how strong we have seen Torakio to be, he suffered from a very weak tachiai which was beginning to be exploited even at the bottom of Sandanme. After his make-koshi clinching under-arm throw inflicted by Ryuki on day 12, he remained on the floor for a very long time. Obviously we wish the strong Torakio the best of health, and hope he can make a comeback in the upper reaches of Jonidan next time out.

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively already on the site, Wakaichiro had a fantastic return to form at 5-2 (winning his first four) and one that will see him almost certainly repromoted to Sandanme for his second crack at the division in Osaka. The last time this record at this rank wasn’t good enough for a promotion was 1958, so it’s as close to a banker as you can get.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The Amatsu comeback story continues as his 5-2 record keeps him on pace to return to the higher divisions after his years long layoff!

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – “Mike” Hayashi opened his Jonidan account with 4 straight wins, looking to grab the yusho that eluded him at the first time of asking on his banzuke debut at Kyushu. Despite nursing a heavily bandaged right knee, Hayashi looked pretty composed most of the time here en route to a 5-2 result that will place him alongside Amatsu in the top 10 ranks of Jonidan in Osaka as they continue their unlikely rivalry which Hayashi leads 2-0.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – The pre-tournament projections of the hyped Yoshoyama and his mae-zumo results made him feel like a bona-fide yusho challenger to us but we whiffed on that as he had to rally to secure a 4-3 kachi-koshi in which he did not particularly impress.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – As noted in our mid-basho roundup, the Sadogatake debutant was winning with little effort owing to his size and strength differential. He ran into some trouble when pulled up to Jonidan for a match and ended up losing the playoff to finish with the jun-yusho, but it’s an encouraging start and one which should portend decent results in the bottom half of Jonidan next time out.

As for Hattorizakura… as Herouth noted he did show some improvement and some fight early on in the tournament before returning to his usual ways. The match he really should have won was his (actually quite lengthy) Day 8 match against the tiny Takita, whose two career victories to date both came against Hattorizakura. If he can at least be less afraid of the tachiai, he might be able to sneak one or two. We shall cheer for a victory in Osaka!

Ones to Watch: Hatsu 2018 Midpoint

While much of the conversation of the past week has been about how the Kakuryu-meter runneth over, the basho has been in full swing for the folks that we don’t get to see on the highlights every day, so let’s catch up on the Ones to Watch for Hatsu and see how we’re doing. As a reminder, we picked up 17 kachi-koshi and 2 yusho from our Kyushu picks, and well, that might be a bit of a challenge this time.

As some of you will know, I was at Day 2 of the basho earlier this past week and so, for this first time, we’ve got some of our own video to add as well. I had a great vantage point but was surrounded by some elderly friends of the site who walked in front of the camera a few times, so please don’t mind them. They were having a great time too, and newcomers to sumo have much to learn from seasoned fans who like to get there early and cheer enthusiastically for the good matches that they can take in at the lower levels.

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – We’re now at the stage, with so many of our picks involved in similar areas of the banzuke, that success here is going to look like 4 and 5 win records rather than 6 and 7. And that’s ok, as I suspect Enho would be happy with a kachi-koshi at this stage where he sits at 2-2 after 8 days. He exacted revenge over Jokoryu on Day 1 and picked off another of our picks, Murata on Day 8, but a disappointing loss to the inelegant (no matter which way you look at it) Akiseyama leaves him in somewhat precarious territory as he looks to continue his advancement.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – These guys should all be very happy with their performances. Wakamotoharu sits on 2-2 having run into some tough traffic at the top end of the division, but both his brothers are 4-0 and cruising. Let’s not waste any more words on this and instead check out some VT:

 

Here’s Wakamotoharu’s Day 2 match against our friend Takayoshitoshi. A good old fashioned grapple before he gets dumped out at the end to much cheer from the crowd, with a guest appearance from a gift-bag delivering usher.

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – The schedule is not kind at this level and Murata has been faced with 3 talented up and comers and a rikishi who’s just been unceremoniously dumped out of Juryo in Daisedo, with a 1-3 record to show for it. He faces the equally monovictorious Jokoryu on Day 9, as he attempts to stave off a make-koshi.

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I feel good about this guy and caught the end of his Day 2 bought against Kiribayama (a win) and he is looking good. He sits at 3-1 and is poised for another steady move upward if he can finish the job in the next few days.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – If anyone knows what on earth is going on at Isegahama-beya please let us know in the comments (EDIT: a bunch of folks have got the flu. Thank you to commenter Sakura for the tip-off). We all know about what has beset the top end of their roster but a number of their lower division rikishi pulled out for a couple days in week 1, so the very promising Nishikifuji sits with a 1-2-1 record that is going to make further promotion difficult for him this time out. He gets to face Kise-beya’s one-time Juryo man Takaryu on Day 9.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Now we get to a nicer part of the division where 3 of our picks (Ryuko, Tomokaze and Wakatakamoto) have only lost to each other. So that’s cool and makes us look smart. He’s 3-1.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – See above. Tomokaze’s having a very good time of it on his debut in the division and gets matched up with Tokitsukaze’s 22 year old Hamayutaka on Day 9, who like Tomokaze is 3-1.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – Oh boy. Well, we were right about the pedigree being there, but sadly the Musashigawa man is off to a rough 1-3 start. I got to see him in action in person earlier this week and after two mattas it was clear there was something a little wrong with his timing and composure. He had a good old match against Mugendai though, and unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of history. Let’s take a look:

 

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe is the 15th rikishi from Kise-beya in the Makushita division – that’s more than Miyagino has in their whole stable and even more than Isegahama have had go kyujo in this tournament! Tanabe has built a bit of a rivalry with Fukuyama but must be missing him as he has only been able to muster a 2-2 start. He gets 21 year old Nakazono from Nishonoseki-beya on Day 9.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama is on the brink of promotion and he’s got 3 chances to find the 2 wins to do it and join Tanabe in the next division as he’s 2-2. He’s had the misfortune to run into the streaking Aonosho who looks like he may contend for the yusho here.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – A few commenters mentioned that Torakio would be more likely than Shoji to compete for the yusho at this level, despite Shoji going 2 for 2. His hopes of matching Enho’s hot 3-yusho start have been thoroughly quashed with a rude awakening and a 1-3 start. He needs to be perfect from here on out if he is to continue progressing.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Kotokumazoe had been on a hot comeback run but he seems to have hit an icy patch as well, as he is also 1-3. We won’t see him in action again until at least Day 10.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – As Herouth has covered elsewhere in the past few days, something seems not right about Torakio at the moment and after a couple wins he’s cooled off to a 2-2 start. Hopefully he can recapture his spark and give himself a nice boost up a division that’s proving difficult for our picks.

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Well this is more like it. The Tachiai favorite has shown some much developed sumo to start 2018 and that in itself fills us with much encouragement for his progress. Then you look at his 4-0 start and wonder how far he can go. As Bruce has covered, he gets Tomozuna’s Kaiho on Day 9.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The Amatsu comeback continues apace as only Hayashi has been able to stop him so far. He’s 3-1 and in action Day 9 against 22 year old Nakao of Onoe-beya. The only question seems at the moment to be whether we will stick or twist next time out and continue to follow the comeback story of a veteran of relatively advanced age.

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – “Mike” Hayashi’s off to a 4-0 flyer this time and looking good. He gets Fujihisashi on Day 9 and should he and Wakaichiro win, it’s not out of the question we may see them in action against each other yet in this basho. But hopefully they can both pull it off and we can go from there.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – We loved the projections of the “beastly” Yoshoyama but he’s having a really rough debut tournament. I thought it would not be a shock for him to grab the yusho but he’s been getting handled and his second match loss to Shinfuji was ugly. He may do well to repeat the level.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – At least we got one pick to click at this level! The Sadogatake man is winning with very little effort right now and so as he gets matched up with stronger rikishi, we’ll see if he can carry on and win the title. It’s difficult to say if he actually looks good because he really hasn’t been pushed.

And of course there’s Hattorizakura – winless, but managing to put up more of a fight. Will his first win in over 70 matches come before the end of Hatsu 2018?

Ones to Watch: Hatsu 2018

Enho

Real sumo starts back up again on Sunday, and while we wait with anticipation to see what will happen on the return of some of the premiere stars of the sport, there will be a whole lot of rikishi mounting the dohyo early on in the day, and some of them belong to the next generation of superstars. With that, it’s the return of our Ones to Watch series where we highlight 20 upcoming rikishi from the bottom 4 divisions (and one other special friend of Tachiai).

This time, a slot opens up due to the promotion of Ones to Watch alum Mitoryu of Nishikido-beya, who makes his Juryo debut amid much fanfare. Descriptions here may be somewhat abbreviated as your humble correspondent needs to get on with the business of boarding a plane and going to the basho, but we’ll continue to check in with these guys throughout the tournament and see how they’re getting on, with further analysis.

Finally, as we’ve been following some of these guys for several tournaments now and they’ve repaid our faith by performing well, this month’s set of picks is very Makushita-heavy.

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – There’s only one place to start. Miyagino-beya has been involved in some strange controversies in the last few weeks but the good news is that this man continues his trajectory. After acing his first 3 tournaments, he put up a solid 5 win record in November and finds himself nearer the cusp of the sekitori ranks.

However, here’s where things start to get really interesting: his match-ups this time will likely come from a combination of yo-yo rikishi who have bounced up and down from Juryo, grizzled vets trying to make it back to the big time and fellow members of the next huge wave of up-and-comers (more of whom, imminently). Not that he didn’t have solid rivals last time out at Ms14, but I anticipate this tournament will be his first real test.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The three brothers Onami and stablemates (who also all took/changed shikona in the last year presumably in tribute to their grandfather Wakabayama) have all taken up places for the first time towards the upper reaches of the Makushita division. We’ve put Wakatakakage under the spotlight as the university man with some pedigree has flown up the divisions, but he suffered his first make-koshi last time out. Will any of these men reach the next level – and if so, who will reach it first?

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – We’ve been measuring Murata against Wakatakakage who debuted at the same time and more or less matched his records over several basho, but now it’s time to split them up. I was impressed with how Murata rebounded from a narrow make-koshi last time out to post a sterling 6-1 record and bound into the division’s top 10, but even more impressive was how he easily despatched the much heralded Shonannoumi in so doing.

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He had been blitzing his way up the banzuke and I had even tipped him as a sleeper yusho candidate last time out before he came a little unstuck and scraped a narrow 4-3. His match against Kiribayama is going to be interesting, and he’ll likely come up against our next man as well. This part of the banzuke always has an odd collection of mostly declining veterans and rikishi whose peak will be this level with the odd talented youngster thrown in and I’d like to see a more emphatic kachi-koshi here this time out.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Here’s one of the bright spots for Isegahama-oyakata, as this man just continues his fast progress and the 21 year old put up his best record in 5 tournaments as he cruised to a 6 win basho last time out. As with Ichiyamamoto, how he navigates a mixed bag of opponents will determine how quickly he can join a pretty solid collection of rikishi in challenging for Juryo.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Ryuko celebrates his anniversary in sumo here having never put up less than 5 wins. I think he will be challenged to continue this impressive feat this time out, as actually this area of the ranking sheet looks a bit tougher to me than where Ichiyamamoto and Nishikifuji find themselves. The 19 year old is off to a great, solid start to his career.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – An almost spotless opening to Tomokaze’s career has him 20-1 with two yusho. Now he takes on the 3rd division and will face some challenging rikishi (I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t run into Ryuko) in his bid to further clog up the Juryo promotion queue.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I really hemmed and hawed about whether I wanted to include him, and his heavy oshi- attack is a little rough around the edges, but I just have a good feeling here. The rank feels good for him and while the results by the numbers haven’t been especially spectacular, I think he’s a good follow for a few tournaments. Obviously, the pedigree is there.

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Kise-beya needs some good news and it’s possible that Tanabe’s promotion to Makushita might be the start of it. Obviously there are an enormous number of rikishi ahead of him just within the stable both inside and outside of this division but I like his match ups at this level. He has done exceptionally well so far and has managed to break apart from Fukuyama who had managed to stay ranked in front of him despite what I saw as slightly poorer performance.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama gets his third crack at a division where he’s finally unlikely to have to face his bogeyman Tanabe any longer (Tanabe won all 3 of their match-ups). Only promotion will do this time out.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – He’s 2 for 2 so far with a perfect record, despite the fact that rival Torakio has really pushed him to the max. Now he competes to match Enho’s stellar 3 straight yusho achievement from last year. This will be a tougher challenge. Also I’m interested to see what state his hair is in when he turns up this time.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – There are so many Sadogatake rikishi in this division including the fabulously named Kotozensho, but this man repaid our faith as he continued his comeback from a long injury layoff last time off and again the rank here feels good for success.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – Oh boy. Torakio is a fireball with massive strength and even a bit of a temper as we saw last time out after his match with Shoji, and now he takes a crack at a new division at the bottom end where anything can happen. The big question for me is whether he can run his record to 6-0 and end up running into Shoji again, though this time I expect that will depend more on Shoji. If he has been performing well in training and continuing his progress, then I think we’re going to see a BIG tournament from the Bulgarian this time.

 

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – The debut in Sandanme wasn’t what we all hoped at Tachiai, but a strong tournament here may reverse his fortunes and send him back up – or close to it.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The 27 year old’s comeback after an extremely long layoff started well last time out as he notched 6 wins and earned a promotion. How far can he go?

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – The debut basho was mostly a success for the half-Filipino “Mike” Hayashi. His utter dismantling of the also promoted Bando (one of Izutsu’s few rikishi) was a fun watch but he won multiple matches in similar fashion and it’ll be interesting to see him come up against hopefully stronger competition.

 

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – If you liked the way that Hayashi manhandled most of the opposition in his debut, then you’re going to love Yoshoyama, who makes his bow here and has been described as “enormous” and “a beast.” He makes his debut presumably a tournament ahead of fellow hotly tipped Mongolian Byambasuren and by all accounts it’s going to be fun to watch these two climb the banzuke. I’m going to be very surprised not to see a yusho here.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – Another debutant rolls off the Sadogatake production line. This isn’t a pick made looking massively down the line but rather one specifically for this tournament – Kototebakari has a sizeable mass advantage over most of his twig-like competitors at the level and having breezed through maezumo, it will be interesting to see how his match with Yoshoyama goes as it will maybe even give somewhat of an indication to how the Mongolian can deal with more developed rikishi at higher levels.

Our bonus is the man at Jk24, Hattorizakura, who enters the tournament again ranked above two rikishi and looking to avoid what would be a tenth consecutive winless tournament.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Wrap-up

Above: Enho rounds off his tournament by escorting Akinohana off the dohyo.
Video c/o Asashosakari

Remember way back in September and October when we were shaking our heads in disbelief at “Wacky” Aki? How positively calm those days seem now. We took a week or so to collect ourselves following the conclusion of the unprecedented events of the Kyushu basho, but now it’s time to wrap-up our “Ones to Watch” series for 2017. Thanks to everyone who sent through kind words and their suggestions of future rikishi to follow – I think we’ll have a good list in store for Hatsu.

Results

So, how did our picks do on the whole?

Kachi-koshi: 17
Make-koshi: 3
Yusho: 🏆🏆
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu sealed his promotion to Juryo with a fine 6-1 record, justifying our selection as top pick in the Makushita ranks this time out. He’ll be ineligible for the list next time, but the much-vaunted rikishi will continue to be one to watch as he continues his progression and hopefully consolidates his place among the sekitori.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – I was somewhat hopeful that Hokaho could continue his run, having scored winning records in every other basho in 2017. However the run stops here as he slumped to a 3-4 make-koshi courtesy of a final match loss against…

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – … who sealed his kachi-koshi in the same match. Takagenji’s twin will no doubt be challenged to follow his brother’s (who has managed to hold on to his place in Juryo) progress as he’ll see himself inside the top 10 Makushita ranks for Hatsu. The question is whether he can put together the run of consistency that could see him in promotion contention by mid-2018 – his mental makeup and application have been debated somewhat within the comments section of this site.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – Despite entering the tournament at a similar pedigree (just the odd loss separating them over their careers), the strength of schedule really told here. Wakatakakage was simply out-shoved against a selection of seasoned vets at this level en route to a 3-4 make-koshi, including the eventual yusho winner Tochihiryu. Murata on the other hand was able to bulldoze his way through the middle of the pack to a very strong 6-1 record that will see him promoted above his contemporary next time out and almost certainly into the top 10 Makushita ranks.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – I felt there was a lot of spice in the Makushita 14 pairing as Jokoryu was the very last rikishi before Enho to achieve 3 consecutive 7-0 records to begin his career. With different goals at stake – Jokoryu’s late career fightback to the pro ranks, Enho’s effort to continue a blistering start to his career – both men valiantly achieved 5-2 records which will see them also placed in the Makushita top 10 in January.

It’s worth noting that Enho’s energy is absolutely remarkable, and currently his speed is the main trait that helps him overcome the massive size gaps that exist between him and most competitors. Additionally, he does a good job of keeping his opponents away from the mawashi, as once he’s locked up he’s fairly easy for larger, stronger rikishi to move around (as somewhat evidenced by his loss to the enormous Akiseyama, albeit a match where his arms rather than his belt were locked up). While he displays at times a composure beyond his years in the manner in which he dispatches much larger opponents, he also has suffered a few wild crashes off the dohyo, so we will hope that he stays healthy as he continues his development.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I got this one a bit wrong, as I picked Ichiyamamoto as a bit of a sleeper yusho pick owing to the weak strength of schedule and his absolute tear up the banzuke to this point. He will continue his progression after posting a 4-3 kachi-koshi but we will want to see more next time. He displayed some good poise, despite being smaller than many of his opponents.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – A strong performance in his Makushita debut, putting up a 5-2 kachi-koshi, the odd loss coming to…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … whose victory over Ryuko (in a match that probably could have gone either way, Nishikifuji slapping down Ryuko on the verge of being pushed out at the edge) sealed a 6-1 tournament in which both men coughed up the other losses to the promising Mongolian Kiribayama. Both Ryuko and Nishikifuji are set for strong promotions upward in January and we will continue to monitor their progress. It’s worth noting that Nishikifuji’s performance at Kyushu was a rare bright spot for the otherwise beleaguered Isegahama stable.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve rated Tanabe as the better of these two for a while, having only lost to Enho in his career entering the basho (in fairness to Fukuyama, he’d only lost to Tanabe, but he wasn’t running into Enho). This time, Enho was in another division and Tanabe repaid this faith with a solid 5-2 record that bested Fukuyama’s narrow 4 win kachi-koshi. Tanabe’s showing should be good enough to earn him a promotion, while Fukuyama will likely need to take another crack from the top of Sandanme next time out. As an aside, this is the part of the banzuke where an awful lot of rikishi’s successes are dependent about how they do against the squad from Sadogatake-beya. Both of these guys ended up facing 3 Koto-men – as did Tomokaze and Wakaichiro.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze comes up one loss short of “doing an Enho” from his first three tournaments – he dropped one match in Aki, but stormed back with a zensho (via playoff) here that solidified his credentials as a bona fide prospect. His relatively low ranking in the Sandanme division means he should end up somewhere around the magical Makushita 30 mark at which another unprecedented zensho might clinch another promotion, but it is likely based on past precedent that he’ll fall just short of this mark.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Talking of the myriad prospects of Sadogatake-beya, Kotokumazoe reinforces his credentials after his lengthy absence from the banzuke with a third straight solid tournament. His 5 win record should fire him up another 30-35 positions next time out.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – There’s no getting around that it was a disappointing debut at Sandanme level for the Texan, who has vowed to do better next time out. While his 1 win performance in the final basho of the year was not what he or his fans were hoping for, we are excited to see him continue his progression and hopefully solidify his credentials upon his return to Jonidan where he has already shown solid skill in several previous tournaments this year.

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – It’s a second straight yusho for Wakaichiro’s stablemate, who will swap places with the Tachiai-favorite in January as he earns an automatic promotion that will see him placed somewhere between Sd20-30. As we noted in our lower division yusho wrap-up, Shoji sealed the deal with a final match win over Torakio with whom he is developing a nice little rivalry.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – Torakio may yet get another chance to avenge his second straight yusho race defeat to Shoji at Hatsu, as his 6 win record will more than likely be enough to get him up to Sandanme (the last time it wasn’t from his level was 1975). So while they’ll likely work from opposite ends of the division, one wouldn’t bet against the big and strong Bulgarian getting matched up with Shoji again should both men dominate in their step up.

For Sumidagawa, Torakio’s massive stablemate, the goal at Hatsu will be consolidation and further progression after he netted a 4-3 kachi-koshi which some Tachiai commenters mentioned might be the height of his ambition with respect to his more esteemed aforementioned colleague.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – 27 year old Amatsu turned in a fine performance on his comeback to the dohyo after nearly 3 years away. He only suffered one blemish, with a 6 win record that will see him comfortably promoted in his effort to make it back to the Makushita ranks. As I remarked last time, it was disappointing not to see him matched up with the yusho winner Kotoseigo given they were only placed 2 spots apart on the banzuke.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Speaking of solid performances, top debutant “Mike” Hayashi turned in a 6-1 record, his sole loss coming to the yusho winner Kotoseigo. He will be promoted at Hatsu and we will continue to monitor his progress. He will likely be replaced as our “top debutant to watch” at Hatsu by much vaunted Mongolian Yoshoyama of Tokitsukaze-beya.

Finally, while we don’t technically list Hattorizakura of Shikihide-beya as “one to watch,” we certainly will continue to look for his results, and unfortunately he put up his ninth straight 0-7 tournament at Kyushu. This tournament saw him do what I guess we can call a reverse Futabayama, as he has passed the legendary Yokozuna’s run of 63 and run his loss streak now to 67 consecutive losses (his second loss this time out, against the debutant Takita, was particularly heartbreaking as it looked like a sure win until he got Aminishiki’d at the edge). Here’s an interesting stat if you’re a Hattorizakura fan: only 16 other rikishi have managed to stay on the banzuke while not winning for seven consecutive tournaments (without going banzuke-gai). All of the other 16 were kyujo at some point, though a few did put up legitimate winless tournaments over that period. The great Yokozuna Takanohana II is a member of that list in the injury-addled latter stages of his career, so I guess Hattorizakura can at least say they have that in common!

Lower Division Yusho Watch

torakio
Torakio: Foiled again

As we head into the final day’s action, here’s a quick update as to where the yusho results in the bottom four divisions sit:

Makushita

30 year old Tochihiryu of Kasugano-beya has clinched his first yusho at this level by way of a 7-0 record that took him past several veteran and upcoming names: a split of 4 former sekitori looking to make their way back and 3 hot shot up and comers (Wakatakakage, Kiribayama and Chiyonoumi). After 2 years in the wilderness from the professional ranks, he will return to Juryo looking for a 2nd kachi-koshi at the 9th attempt.

Given what was at stake, it was a little disappointing to see his clinching win come by way of a henka against Kiribayama (hat tip once again to Tachiai commenter Asashosakari for the video).

Sandanme

Tachiai “One to Watch” Tomokaze of Oguruma-beya will feature in a playoff against Tsuyukusa of Otake-beya. This will be Tsuyukusa’s second playoff having lost the first in Jonidan earlier this year. Tomokaze, meanwhile, is off to a blistering 20-1 start to his career. He’s one Jonidan loss short of having “done an Enho.”

Jonidan

Shoji of Musashigawa-beya continues his perfect career start by way of another final match victory over the big Bulgarian Torakio (pictured above). Their bout was yet another epic between the two, who are really establishing some rivalry early on. Check it out here (thanks again to Asashosakari!). Unlike the title decider from Makushita, it is a match worthy of deciding the championship, although Torakio’s visibly disappointed demeanor after the match is going to need to improve. But as we saw in the NHK World Preview, he’s putting in the long hours in sumo school.

Happily, both of these men were featured as part of our “Ones to Watch” series and we will continue tracking both of their progress. Also happily, Jonidan is a great division if you’re a fan of awkward sumo hairstyles.

Jonokuchi

23 year old Kotoseigo of Sadogatake-beya smashed the competition en route to a zensho. Admittedly we’re a little disappointed, given that he is another rikishi to have been on and off the dohyo for long stretches over the past few years, that he was not matched up at all with another comeback success story in Amatsu. He did however take on much vaunted new boy Hayashi and blasted him off the dohyo (after a matta).

Hattorizakura did not compete for the yusho this time out, however we will cover his travails further of course in the end of basho “Ones to Watch” roundup.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Midpoint

Enho
What’s cooler than being cool? Enho

Whew! The final honbasho of the year has been extremely exciting so far, with an incredible amount of activity in the makuuchi ranks both on and off the dohyo. We’re at the midway point in the tournament, and that means it’s time to check in on this tournament’s Ones to Watch! Thanks for everyone who’s shared their opinions and thoughts on this feature and the lower division rikishi that they are tracking as well.

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Having dropped his day 7 bout to co-leader Asabenkei, Turbold is going to have to press the Turbo button (… I’ll get my coat) if he wants to make it to Juryo for Hatsu 2018. While his one loss almost certainly rules him out of the yusho race, winning out would leave him with a 6 win record, and the last time a 6-1 result from Ms4 wasn’t good enough for promotion to Juryo was 1962. 5 wins could also be enough, but much less likely, as Takagenji experienced earlier this year, as it only positioned him at Ms1 in the following basho.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – Having put up five straight kachi-kochi winning records, I was intrigued to see whether Hokaho could continue that run and position himself near the top of the Makushita banzuke ahead of January’s Hatsu basho. It’s going to be a tough run as he’s already dropped 3 matches while not looking particularly poised (though his win over Tochimaru, confirmed via monoii, was engaging sumo). He’ll take on the enormous Takaryu on Day 9.

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – Mixed results so far for Takagenji’s “elder” twin, going 2-2. He’s dropped matches to two other “ones to watch” in Enho and Wakatakakage. He’ll be looking for at least two more wins from here to position him inside the top 10 ranks in January.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – These two have more or less mirrored each other’s trajectory and one odd win last time out explains the difference in their ranking. It’s possible Wakatakakage’s 2-2 record reflects the difficulty Murata might have at the same level, but he’s crushed it en route to a 4-0 record so far owing to the less esteemed nature of his competition. He’ll take on the similarly undefeated Chiyonoumi on Day 9 to see if he can enhance his yusho credentials.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – As we’ve mentioned a couple times now, there was some extra spice to this basho for both men – Jokoryu is attempting to fight his way back up to Juryo while undefeated Enho saw his route to continuing his stellar record run through the last man to achieve three consecutive 7-0 basho to start his career. Jokoryu showed Enho who was boss on day 1, ending that 21 win streak, but Enho has bounced back with 3 more wins and finds himself on the cusp of another bump up the rankings, especially if he can finish strongly as he can expect to avoid significant yusho challengers from here as the schedulers start to pit the undefeated rikishi against one another. Jokoryu, meanwhile, has also put up another pair of wins and we can likely expect to see him in the top 10 for Hatsu as well.

Thanks to frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari for posting the video of Enho displaying some amazing resilience in his bout against the much larger Takayoshitoshi:

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He entered this tournament having started his career 25-3 and has continued in much the same vein, starting 3-1, having only dropped a match to the undefeated aforementioned Chiyonoumi. He has continued his impressive and composed brand of oshi-zumo, and his Day 2 win against Gochozan was a great come-from-behind win.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another to start 3-1, it seems we’ve picked a lot of “nearly men” this time out. His sole loss also came to an undefeated rikishi in the Mongolian Kiribayama to start the tournament, but he has come back strong and takes on Isegahama’s Midorifuji on Day 9, another rikishi who has started his career strongly and who will be a good challenge.

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – It’s another 3-1 start and another man who Kiribayama knocked out of meaningful contention. He takes on Shosei on Day 9 as both men go for their kachi-koshi – an interesting challenger for a young rikishi in so much as he is very experienced at the level and is a year removed from fighting at the top end of the division.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve taken a bit of flak on the comment threads here for calling these guys out as having a bit of false rankings, on the back of the fact that Fukuyama simply started in Jonokuchi from a higher position and they’ve had identical records since, albeit with Tanabe beating Fukuyama each time. This time that has borne out – while both men have run into a glut of Sadogatake rikishi who have flooded this level of the banzuke, Fukuyama has stuttered to a 1-3 start while Tanabe is perfect, fighting for the first time without Enho in his way. Fukuyama takes on Sd18 Inoue on Day 9 while Tanabe will see his title credentials tested against Sd14 Kotomisen.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – The impressive young rikishi has started life in Sandanme with a perfect score, and comes up against yet another Sadogatake rikishi in the 4-0 Kotohayato on Day 9. Should both he and Tanabe prevail it’s possible we’ll see them against each other in the final days of the tournament.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Back in action in his third basho after a year out, Kotokumazoe has started very strong here with a 3-1 record that takes his career tally to 21-4.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – The man from Texas has had a tougher time of it in his debut at Sandanme level and is another man whose fixture list has been flooded by torikumi against Sadogatake rikishi – having faced three men from the same stable to start the basho! His Day 9 opponent is the equally 1-3 Kaiseijo, a 19 year old who has spent most of his time fighting at Jonidan level over the past few years and is also experiencing his highest ranking (Sandanme 91) in this basho – it should be an interesting bellwether matchup for our man at this level, at this point in his career.

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – Wakaichiro’s stablemate continues his strong career start with a 4-0 record, and will start to face yusho competitors from here on out. The first such man will be Tokiryu on Day 9, though Shoji should have too much for him if this goes according to the form book.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – If you’re curious as to whether the big Bulgarian Torakio is fighting a bit below his true talent level, have a peek at this video – again with thanks to Asashosakari:

That’s an okuritsuriotoshi or “rear lifting body slam.”

Torakio is 4-0 to start the tournament and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a rematch with Shoji for all the marbles, either on the final day or in a playoff. He takes on the light, 19 year old Suzuki on Day 9, who is probably not relishing the matchup if he’s seen that. Meanwhile, his stablemate Sumidagawa has recovered from a bonkers day 1 loss to post 3 straight wins and takes on Hamamiryu on Day 9, who’s about 11 years older and half his weight.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The 27 year old comeback candidate has started well at 3-1, dropping his only loss to our featured Jonokuchi debutant Hayashi. He could well stay in the yusho race with one loss as there are only three undefeated rikishi left at the level and two of them fight each other on day 9. Amatsu meanwhile will deploy his years of experience against the 23 year old Mienomaru on day 9.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Our top debutant for Kyushu has made a real good go of it so far, just dropping one match in a bout that started with a matta and may well have thrown him off. We’ll keep watching to see if he’s able to finish strong and compete for the title.

And as for Hattorizakura, well, he actually had what could be described as a strong tachiai against a similarly challenged rikishi in the debutant Takita on day 4, driving his opponent back to the edge of the rice bales (this may be difficult to believe, so here’s video again care of Asashosakari), however he was then dumped unceremoniously over the edge and he continues to search for an elusive win.

A Collection Of Matches Below Makuuchi

I was looking for Torakio’s match from today (that Naruto beya obsession I have), and stumbled upon a collection of interesting low-rank bouts I thought would be worth sharing. First, here’s the one I was looking for, Torakio (left) vs Kotosato:

Now, we all know Orora, right? The man who recently broke the NSK all-time record for body weight. So what is his sumo like?

Here he is today, wrestling with Furanshisu, who is a Philipino wrestler, and that’s the Japanese rendition of his real name (Francis). The weight difference between them is about a whole Kisenosato. I mean, Orora is 288kg, and Furanshisu is 103kg.

What do you know, a monoii!

Now, remember the princess of the Jungyo, Hikarugenji? He’s quite the opposite of Orora as far as size goes. Here we have him against Kasugakuni.

Apparently, mattas are not reserved to Makuuchi. And weight is an important thing in Sumo.

Looking for someone older than Aminishiki? Here is Hanakaze, who is almost my age… He’s 47 years old, and barely has any hair for a chon-mage. Of course, he’s only in Jonidan. Still better than Hattorizakura… Here vs. Wada:

This time, not just a monoii, but also a torinaoshi. And that man has some Aminishikiness in him.

Now, here is Tokuda, who was mentioned in Tachiai in the past, and he’s back in Sandanme at the age of 17. He’s 190cm, 123kg, and looks promising:

And now, for the followers of the Taka twins, here is Takayoshitoshi from yesterday:

And here is his little brother, yesterday and today:

Yago? Next basho he’s in Makushita for sure.

This also gives you a glimpse into Takanosho, the shin-Juryo, who is not half bad. It’s a different “Taka”, by the way.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17

enho_21
The real test awaits

We debuted the “ones to watch” feature at Aki, and I’m going to attempt to make this a regular feature before, during and after each basho. Again, I’ve picked out 20 rikishi from the bottom four divisions that I think I have interesting story lines going into the upcoming tournament. You may have other rikishi who you might think are also interesting, and I encourage you to share their stories in the comments!

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – The Mongolian delivered the huge basho everyone had been anticipating at the third time of asking at Aki, posting 6 wins and coming a final bout loss short of a yusho. He now finds himself 10 places higher, and despite the incredible amount of traffic and talent at the top of the Makushita ranks, a similar run of results this time out combined with favourable results elsewhere might just give him a kesho-mawashi in January.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – This might seem like an odd choice given that most of the rest of this list is going to consist of young up-and-comers, but as we’ve speculated quite a bit on the future power of Miyagino-beya on these pages, I think Hokaho will have an interesting tournament to follow. At the age of 28 he’s fighting at his joint-highest ever rank and while all of the attention has been on his exciting young stablemate (more of whom in a minute), he’s quietly racked up 5 straight kachi-koshi. Could it be not 4 but 5 sekitori from this stable by the middle of next year?

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – The wonderfully named 20 year old is another rikishi fighting at his joint-highest ranking and will be hoping for better after suffering 5 losses at Makushita 11 earlier in the year. With his twin brother Takagenji having been promoted back up to Juryo, he will no doubt be determined to prove he too can fight at a higher level.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – These two had identical records and were ranked opposite each other coming into Aki, and a win for Wakatakakage over Murata ended up being the difference maker in their records last time out. The two former university men have moved quickly and we will continue to track their progress this time out.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – Enho is of course worth tracking in his own right (as we have been doing and continue to do somewhat comprehensively and breathlessly), but his bow at Makushita level is given a bit of extra spice by the fact that his route to further advancement runs right through the last man to accomplish the three consecutive 7-0 records he has put up to start his career.

The former Komusubi Jokoryu has been making a comeback attempt after an injury-inspired tumble from the top division and has been entrenched in Makushita with varying results for much of the past year. While the goal for Enho is simply to see how many more wins he can continue to rack up from day 1 to continue his climb, Jokoryu will be looking to re-establish himself – there is so much good young talent rising up the banzuke right now that he’s in danger of running out of time to make it back to the professional ranks.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He has continued to torch the competition, running his impressive career start now to 25-3. The part of the banzuke he now finds himself at consists of many more experienced names and a few ex-sekitori who just kind of hanging on. Just like Kagamio last time out, the oshi-specialist could be a sleeper yusho candidate owing to a weaker strength of schedule.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another pick from last time that we will continue to follow, Ryuko (his given name) has racked up four straight strong tournaments to start his career and will likely now receive his first stern test, along with…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … the Isegahama man whose bright star has dimmed somewhat following back to back yusho to open his career, but who nevertheless has made quick work of the bottom three tiers to progress up to a Makushita debut.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I really love following these guys as their battles have all been quite good, and all won by Tanabe. And Tanabe has only suffered three defeats in his career, all coming at the hands of Enho. Of the two, Tanabe has shown himself to be more of an oshi-specialist to open his career while Fukuyama has shown somewhat of a diversity of throwing techniques (in a small sample size, admittedly). It will be interesting to see if the two rivals can continue their rise.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – He couldn’t grab a second consecutive yusho last time out, but nevertheless finds himself as the highest placed debutant at this level and we’ll want to see if he can keep moving quickly.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Having spent a year out of action, Kotokumazoe came back with back to back 6-1 records to take his career tally to 18-3 and force a promotion to Sandanme. The impressive Tomokaze is one of the only men to take him down so far.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Wakaichiro continues his progression to make his Sandanme debut in Kyushu and the whole Tachiai team will be cheering him on and covering his matches!

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – I accurately predicted Wakaichiro’s stablemate for the Jonokuchi yusho last time out, and now he’ll try and make it two out of two.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – These men won’t face each other, but have one thing in common which is that they’ve both only been beaten twice and on all four of those occasions it was by Shoji. Now that they should be clear of him (barring a playoff or final day matchup), we may get to see if these guys can make a run at the yusho with an easier schedule.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – A 27 year old in Jonokuchi really shouldn’t be that interesting, but it is when he was last seen in competitive action over two and a half years ago in the middle of the Makushita rankings. Add into the mix that this is a man who’s put dirt on makuuchi regulars Chiyoshoma, Chiyomaru and Takanoiwa, and you’d expect that he’d not only make quick work of the bottom divisions but also challenge for the yusho.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – With only one spot left, it’s got to go to the bespectacled 19 year old Mike Hayashi who’s apparently been called the “next Takayasu” owing to his Filipino heritage. He’s going to get the nod over Chiganoura’s Hakuho-approved Yuriki owing to having beaten him in maezumo and starting as the top debutant. Both of their matches against Amatsu should be interesting.

Obviously, we will always monitor the progress and pour out a sake for Hattorizakura, whose run at avoiding historic futility continues from Jk24 where he will attempt to dodge a 9th consecutive 0-7 record and score a second career win in 80+ attempts against the new batch of recruits. You have to feel for the two guys ranked below him.

Enho & The 21 Club

enho_21
A man with more than an ace up his mawashi

Promise is addictive. People who cover and expose audiences to any subject – especially sports – are always searching for the next new big thing. It’s exciting, it gives you something to follow, and to cheer for. As a fan or a follower, getting in early might provide a sense of ownership, and the satisfaction of seeing a real true talent develop all the way from the beginning. As the person or publication covering the subject, being right about the next new thing might lend an air of credibility (along with the pressure of then finding the next new thing!).

While we weren’t the only ones to mark out Miyagino-beya’s Enho as “one to watch,” we’ve definitely spent most of the year on the Enho train and we’ve been rewarded in watching him rack up a remarkable three consecutive championships in his first three tournaments, as he’s rocketed his way through the divisions and into the third, Makushita, tier of the banzuke ahead of the upcoming Kyushu honbasho.

While there are indicators of future success, and those indicators were present for Enho (age relative to division, experience, university pedigree, stablemate of one of the all time greats, good looks), indicators are not guarantees in-and-of themselves. By winning his first three basho without a blemish on his record, Enho has done something remarkable. How remarkable? Well, since the tournament format changed to its current iteration, Enho is just the fourth rikishi to win his first three tournaments unbeaten, the fifth rikishi to finish his first three tournaments with a 7-0 record, and the sixth to open 21-0. And that’s a period spanning over 40 years.

So, while the past is no predictor of the future, let’s take a look at the other five members of the 21 club:

Itai (Kyushu 78-Haru 79)

Itai, of Onaruto-beya, became the first man to open with 21 after the format change, and picked up yusho from the Jonokuchi, Jonidan and Sandanme divisions. He took the fast track to sekitori status and stayed in the top two divisions for most of his 13 year career. He topped out as a Komusubi and plucked two special prizes and three kinboshi, all of which were given to him by the Yokozuna Onokuni.

Immediately after his 21 run, he scored a 6-1 record and it only took him 2 tournaments to reach the professional ranks. His unbeaten run was snapped at 26 by former Komusubi Onishiki – a somewhat unfortunate turn of events, as Onishiki was visiting the amateur ranks for the only time in the middle of an astonishing 15 year period as sekitori.

Kototenzan (Hatsu-Natsu 86)

An incredible story if ever there was one, the Sadogatake-beya’s Canadian rikishi racked up his 21 wins over the first three tournaments of the 1986 and then never mounted the dohyo again. The controversial and tattooed John Tenta eventually went on to take the ring name Earthquake in the WWF. If you’re not familiar with his fascinating story, you should give his Wikipedia page a read.

Unfortunately we will never know what he might have accomplished at the higher levels of the sport, since he walked away having struggled with the physical and cultural demands of the sport and with his unbeaten record still intact.

Tochiazuma (Hatsu-Nagoya 95)

It would be nearly a decade before the next member of the 21 club signed up, as Tochiazuma (then known by his real name Shiga) joined the ranks in 1995. His route to 21 actually took 4 basho, after a bit of a false start – he opened his debut basho kyujo and joined midway through, posting 4 wins before going on to collect the silverware in his next three tournaments (2 of which came via additional wins in 3 playoff matches).

Like Itai, his official win streak would be snapped at 26, as he slipped to his first make-koshi with 3 wins in his debut Makushita tournament. It was to be future Maegashira Dewaarashi who first put dirt on him. But never mind, as he bounced back and collected another zensho yusho in the following tournament, one of 4 that it took him to reach Juryo.

Tochiazuma has had a long and storied career – he spent 13 years as an active rikishi, the last five of which were spent at his peak level of Ozeki (save for two successful Ozekiwake recovery basho). He was decorated with 3 yusho at the highest level, 12 special prizes and 4 kinboshi plucked from household names Akebono, Takanohana (twice) and Musashimaru. He now runs a very large (and less successful) stable as Tamanoi oyakata.

Tokitenku (Aki 02-Hatsu 03)

The Mongolian of Tokitsukaze-beya was the first to collect his 21 this century, and his run culminated with a Sandanme playoff victory over the future Sekiwake and still active Toyonoshima. However, his run was not to last much longer – it stopped at 22 before he ran into former Juryo rikishi Furuichi en route to a 5-2 record in his Makushita bow.

He would need 6 tournaments in all to make it to Juryo, but he never fought below the second tier again. He went on to rank as high as Komusubi, collecting one special prize along the way. After his career he took up coaching as Magaki oyakata, and sadly passed away earlier this year.

Jokoryu (Nagoya-Kyushu 11)

A familiar name with recent sumo fans, Kise-beya’s Jokoryu (then Sakumayama) was the last man to join this club before Enho. He actually didn’t win all three yusho however, as he coughed up the Jonidan championship to the future Takamai (then Watanabe). However, he would atone for that by grabbing the Makushita yusho in his first tournament at that level by way of a playoff win over current sekitori Chiyootori.

He finished that first basho in Makushita at 6-1, one of 2 tournaments he needed at the level to make it to Juryo. His official win streak was snapped at 27 by journeyman and future Juryo rikishi Sensho – a loss which prevented him from opening his career with an unprecedented four straight zensho.

Jokoryu is still only 29 and has made it as far as Komusubi so far in his career, and he is still dining out on kinboshi money from a victory over the generous Harumafuji. He is currently making a valiant attempt to come back to the professional ranks. It is poetic in some respects that he and Enho will play some part in each other’s attempts to make it to that next level: Enho now finds himself ranked opposite the very last man to accomplish what he has achieved, at Makushita 14.

In summary…

None of the above men managed to make it a fourth straight zensho, but they all achieved some manner of success in their career: of the four rikishi who carried on, all of them reached san’yaku with one going as far as to become Ozeki. Enho will need to overcome many challenges (including most pressingly, a crunchy ankle) to reach that level. But if he is fit, we should expect his momentum to carry him at least to a kachi-koshi this time out, and if history is any indicator then by the middle of next year he should be wearing a kesho mawashi.

Kimarite, part one: Force-out techniques

Introduction

I thought it would be interesting to write a post detailing the most common kimarite, and how to distinguish between ones that look quite similar. There are plenty of glossaries out there, but the brief descriptions don’t make it easy to visualize what’s going on, and they rarely take the time to elaborate on the differences between related techniques.

Then I realized that it was going to be an intimidating text wall, and it was probably best to break it up into a series of posts.

What exactly are kimarite?

When a sumo bout is over, a referee (gyoji) will declare the technique that was used to win. There is an official list of eighty-two of these winning techniques, ranging from the extremely common (such as simply pushing the opponent out of the ring) to the extremely rare (such as Shumokuzori, the bell hammer back body drop, on the official record as having been used exactly once in a basho).

But translating kimarite as “technique” gives the wrong impression. There are many techniques practiced extensively by rikishi and employed in the course of winning a sumo bout that are not kimarite, and there are kimarite that are not practiced and are not an important part of sumo skill – and even some that are not intentionally used to win a bout. Skill at sumo is far more than an extensive list of kimarite, and while a profile of a rikishi will sometimes mention how many different kimarite they have performed, this should not necessarily be taken as an indication of expertise. Similarly, commentators like to make a big thing out of rare kimarite, and it certainly is cool to see something unusual – but don’t read too much into it.

Force-out techniques

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There are two main ways to lose a sumo bout: Touch the ground outside the tawara, or touch the ground with a part of the body other than the sole of the foot. For many rikishi, forcing the opponent out of the dohyo is Plan A, and these are some of the most common kimarite on record.

Tsukidashi: Forcing the opponent out with palm thrusts (tsuppari), without maintaining contact. Despite the prevalence of tsuppari in yotsu-zumo, this kimarite isn’t as frequent as you might think. Usually, the tsuppari barrage is enough to drive the opponent back to the edge, but because the tawara are a raised ridge to brace against, it’s difficult to push them over that way (unless they are already retreating, or you have a serious size/strength advantage, or they try to sidestep and mess it up). It’s approximately the tenth most common kimarite overall, and in my experience, is often indicative of a fairly one-sided match.

Oshidashi: Forcing the opponent out while maintaining contact, but not holding the mawashi. There is overlap between Oshidashi and Tsukidashi. In an ‘ideal’ Oshidashi, the victorious rikishi stays in contact, and does not fully extend their arms to push the opponent out. But what about occasions when the winner keeps bent arms but does not maintain contact, or when contact is maintained but the arms are mostly straight? From reviewing past bouts, the most important aspect of Tsukidashi seems to be the alternating left-right pushes, while a double-handed push – even fully extending the arms and not maintaining contact – is usually ruled as Oshidashi. For this reason, Oshidashi is much more common: The tsuppari barrage gets the opponent to the tawara, but it takes a double-handed shove to get them over.

Yorikiri:I have to admit to something – I was wrong about the definition of this kimarite previously. I was under the impression that it required forcing the opponent out while holding the mawashi, on one or both sides – but there are examples of bouts won by yorikiri where the victorious rikishi did NOT appear to have any kind of a mawashi grip. I am not, in fact, completely certain where Yorikiri ends and other techniques begin. It seems that if there is a mawashi grip, it’s Yorikiri, but if there isn’t, it might be Yorikiri if the two rikishi are chest-to-chest and the winner is essentially using their whole body to conduct the force-out.

Yorikiri is by far the most common kimarite on record, occurring approximately twice as often as the second most common, Oshidashi, and nearly ten times as often as Tsukidashi. In fact, Yorikiri and the similar technique Yoritaoshi were the kimarite of record in over a third of recorded bouts (although you should note that these are the all-time records, and in recent years, Yorikiri and Oshidashi are approximately equally common).

This is a situation where the translation of kimarite as “technique” is misleading. Just as yotsu-zumo is a field with a great variety of different styles and techniques within it, there are many styles of Yorikiri. Kotoshogiku’s is one of the more recognisable, putting that belly to good use. Terunofuji’s is more of a lift-and-carry.

Kimedashi: Forcing the opponent out while holding and immobilizing the arms. Substantially less common than the above kimarite, and not considered a basic technique, this sometimes shows up as the counter to a moro-zashi (an inside grip with both hands on the back of the opponent’s mawashi). The idea is to wrap your arms around the outside of the opponent’s arms from above, clasp your hands together, and lift and pull in tightly, applying pressure to the elbows, locking their arms straight and minimizing their ability to apply leverage effectively. You can then use this double-armbar to walk them backwards out of the dohyo. You can see it perfectly here. It doesn’t always involve that double-overarm grip, though: In this bout, Komanokuni (not Komanoumi; the video title is wrong) pushes Sotairyu out with one arm lock and a throat push (nodawa), and the kimarite was ruled as Kimedashi.

Related techniques

If the opponent falls due to one of these techniques, striking the ground with a part of the body other than the foot, the kimarite name changes, becoming Tsukitaoshi, Oshitaoshi, Yoritaoshi, or Kimetaoshi. Generally, one doesn’t try to perform these kimarite – they’re often the result of the opponent slipping or catching a heel on the tawara while being driven backwards, or resisting until the last possible moment until they can’t step out without falling. Very heroic, but not necessarily good for one’s health.

As an aside, the rules for these seem to be a little confusing. It appears that Yoritaoshi specifically refers to falling out of the dohyo while being held by the mawashi (falling inside the dohyo in this way is Abisetaoshi), but it’s easy to find examples of Oshitaoshi and Kimetaoshi that take place comfortably inside the ring.

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One wonders how they cope.

Tsuridashi: Picking the opponent up by the mawashi and lifting him out of the dohyo entirely. Not considered a basic technique, and only really seen in the Makuuchi and Juryo divisions thanks to the strength required. Here we have an ample demonstration of why a moro-zashi grip is so strong – it gives you leverage that you can use to lift a much heavier rikishi (if you’re really strong, you can do this without the moro-zashi grip, like Chiyootori does to the colossal Gagamaru here). The defining feature of Tsuridashi is that the opponent is lifted entirely off the ground, and then lands with one or both feet outside the tawara. Terunofuji and Mitakeumi have been trading these on the Jungyo recently.

Okuridashi: Pushing the opponent out from behind. The trick is getting there! There are several other techniques with the “Okuri” prefix, and they’re all moves performed from behind the other rikishi. Once this happens, the match will usually be over quite quickly. Although there are exceptions, and sometimes a rikishi will even be able to drive out an opponent behind them by aggressively walking backwards (Ushiromotare, an essential inclusion in any basho drinking game).

In conclusion

That’s all I have time for in this initial post. There will be more later, covering other types of kimarite, to hopefully make the gyoji decisions a little less opaque, and to make it easier for you to search for videos of the most exciting victories. Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions in the comments, or correct me if I got something wrong. I am bound to have got at least one thing wrong.

Aki: Wrapping up the “Ones to Watch”

Enho

Many thanks to the readers of the blog who have mentioned that they liked digging into the interesting rikishi making their way through the lower reaches of the banzuke. We’ll look to make this a regular feature: picking a selection of guys who are interesting for some reason ahead of the basho, catching up with their progress midway through, and then seeing whether those story lines continued after the conclusion of the basho.

Of course, for many, many rikishi down in the lower divisions, the road is “long and winding” and their progress cannot be judged on one tournament alone. So, some rikishi will be featured next time out, while other rikishi with interesting stories may replace some of the crop from Aki 2017. Either way, I’ll be trying to keep it at around 20 rikishi per tournament and I look forward to Tachiai readers sharing stories of the lower division rikishi that they are following, as well.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – I had been very bullish on Kizaki, a rikishi who had never fallen to a make-koshi before Aki. However, the streak will always end somewhere and it ended at Ms3, so Kizaki will need to take a step back and we won’t see him in Juryo until at least Haru, barring a zensho next time out. Unfortunately, a very strong group of opponents provided a stern learning curve. Although he did beat a Juryo opponent in the demotion-bound Kitaharima, he couldn’t repeat the trick against Yago in his final bout and ended up 3-4.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu has been much hyped and delivered his best result yet, with a 6-1 record that should see him near the top end of the Makushita listings in Kyushu. Again barring a zensho yusho (which is possible given that he only coughed up the yusho on his final bout, to the eventual winner), he’ll likely need a couple more strong tournaments and it may be March at the earliest that we’d see him as a sekitori.

Ms16 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – These two had identical career records all the way until day 10 of this tournament, and had been quick movers, starting out their careers 18-3 over their first three tournaments. Wakatakakage finished the Aki basho 4-3 to Murata’s 3-4, the difference effectively coming down to their head to head on day 1.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – Ikegawa started his career strong and I picked this as a bellwether tournament to see whether he could continue his recent progress at the level, which had slowed considerably. Ikegawa took another backward step here en route to a 3-4 record.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – I loved the story of this rikishi coming back from a very long layoff to force his way up the banzuke and to a career high in Nagoya. This was his second chance to establish himself in the third tier but he looks to have passed up the opportunity, going 3-4.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The past few paragraphs make for grim reading, but here’s another pick we got right: Ichiyamamoto is a former university man who has absolutely cruised through the divisions so far and he’s set for another big promotion after a 6-1 record that saw him react to a second-bout loss to another yusho challenger in Asakoki by rattling off 5 straight wins.

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji started his career with a pair of zensho yusho and looked to be a fast mover but he’s found the Sandanme division tougher to negotiate. He’s still impressively made it through in no more than 4 tournaments, and will fight in the third tier for the powerhouse Isegahama-beya in Kyushu, having notched another 4-3 record this time out.

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – I liked Ryuko as it seemed he was fighting below his level when compared to his more esteemed counterparts in Wakatakakage and Murata. This was confirmed as he cruised to a 5-2 that will probably see him promoted, having coughed up both losses to extremely difficult opponents – the first to the next man on this list and the second to Makushita yusho-challenger Asakoki.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – The young rockstar of Miyagino-beya takes the yusho in some style after winning the only lower division playoff of this tournament. While his career record officially starts 21-0 after a remarkable three consecutive zensho yusho in the three bottom divisions, adding in playoffs and Maezumo you can consider it 25 consecutive wins to open his career. Given where the past several Sandanme champions have landed on the following banzuke, we will likely see him well inside the top half of the division and probably somewhere around Makushita 15-20 for Kyushu. Were he to repeat the trick again, he’d be Juryo bound in time for Hatsu but it will likely take him a few tournaments to cope with the jump in competition.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – Going into this tournament the incredible stat here was that Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe, who in turn had only ever lost to Enho. And after they posted identical 6-1 records yet again, nothing has changed. Fukuyama coughed up his sole defeat to Tanabe on Day 6, while the schedulers threw the 6-0 Tanabe up against the 6-0 Enho for their final scheduled bouts and, well, you know the rest. The cool thing is that we are getting to see some nice rivalries develop. These guys should both be pushing for promotion from somewhere around Sandanme 5-15 next time out. I’ve taken lumps before for asking minor questions of the NSK on the banzuke, but it will be incredible if they continue to rank Fukuyama above Tanabe next time.

Here’s Enho’s spirited zensho clinching win over the larger Tanabe (who will need to work on his Hatakikomi technique):

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively, our main man Wakaichiro posted another kachi-koshi with a 4-3 record, and will find himself up a division in Sandanme next time out. Congratulations Wakaichiro!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze held the Jonokuchi yusho and I’m always interested to follow rikishi who can repeat the trick. He turned out not to be one of them as he coughed up an early loss, but should find himself comfortably promoted to the fourth tier in Fukuoka and will have a chance to continue to challenge for honors.

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I loved this battle of first timers on the banzuke. My pre-basho pick for the yusho was Shoji and he indeed delivered a zensho for his first career title. Torakio was the one man I thought might be able to stop him and he really came close, just losing their head to head and finishing 6-1. These guys may sweep all comers again in Jonidan, so we’ll continue to track their respective progress. Torakio, a rare Bulgarian rikishi, will no doubt attract interest – and here he is knocking off stubborn Jk1 Fukuazuma on his final bout:

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – I called this the fight for futility and these two continued to deliver. Hattorizakura put up a remarkable 8th consecutive 0-7 tournament that leaves the enthusiast rooted to the bottom of the banzuke, and it will be interesting if the NSK ranks him above any newcomers at all next time out. I really want this guy to put together a nice run of results and at least get a promotion to Jonidan at some point in his career – perhaps a run of fixtures against a handful of 15 year olds at some point will see him someday get those magical 4 wins. As for Sawanofuji, his 2-5 record was artificially propped up by a fusen win. Whether he can muster a win against anyone not named Hattorizakura again, we’ll have to wait until November to find out.

Conclusion

Of the 18 competitive rikishi we picked this time out, we saw 12 kachi-koshi against 6 make-koshi (I’m not counting Hattorizakura and Sawanofuji), and yusho winners in 2 of the 4 divisions. I’m fairly happy with a 67% hit rate – while the goal isn’t simply to pick winners but interesting narratives, continued success and progress up the banzuke is certainly a part of the story. We’ll continue to follow a number of these guys, as well as add in some interesting stories next time out.

Thanks to YouTube’s incredible “One & Only” for the videos as ever.

Day 15: 5 More Yusho

Aki has been so wacky, sometimes it’s easy to forget the other five yusho races happening below Makuuchi! So let’s take stock of where we’re at in the lower divisions, heading into the final day.

Juryo

As has been detailed, the yusho here comes down to the final day’s action and we may see a playoff. Kotoyuki (10-4) has it all in his hands. It’s nice to see both him and his stablemate Kotoshogiku turn it around and post competitive tournaments, having dropped down the banzuke to different degrees. Kotoyuki will almost certainly be back in the top division in Kyushu, but his road to the yusho runs through Abi, who is sitting one win behind, at 9-5.

Aminishiki, Daiamami, Kyokushuho, and Homarefuji are also in the hunt for a playoff should Kotoyuki lose, and none of them face each other. Of those four matches, Daiamami’s bout against Osunaarashi should be especially well contested as a 10th loss for the Egyptian would put his sekitori status in serious jeopardy. To summarize:

Kotoyuki wins vs Abi: yusho
Kotoyuki loses vs Abi: definite playoff, with as many as six rikishi in contention.

Makushita

Two years ago, Kagamio was a mid-table Maegashira fighting against the likes of Tamawashi and Kaisei. This time, he takes the Makushita yusho for Kagamiyama-beya without needing a playoff, courtesy of his win over the younger and much heralded Mitoryu, who may now have a chance to make it to Juryo by Hatsu 2018. This is his second career yusho, having won the Juryo prize back at Natsu 2015.

Sandanme

The only division below Juryo that will definitely go to a playoff, Tachiai regular Enho of Miyagino-beya (fighting at Sandanme 18) will face off against the less heralded Matsuda of Minezaki-beya (fighting at Sandanme 82). Enho’s zensho streak is now at 3 and we will see him in Makushita in a couple months’ time regardless of the outcome. None of Matsuda’s opponents came from the top half of the division and he even gained a win by knocking Jonidan 34 Tokuda from the Jonidan yusho race, so on balance you’d make Enho the strong favorite.

Jonidan

18 year old Narutaki of Isenoumi-beya has won his first yusho from the depths of Jonidan 63. His previous best finish was a playoff loss at Jonokuchi level at Hatsu 2017. He only had to face one opponent in the upper half of the division, but at the same time all of his opponents bar one finished with a kachi-koshi. The yusho was won on Day 13 in a winner-take-all frantic showdown against Hokuyozan which lasted about 30 seconds.

Jonokuchi

My pre-basho pick and Tachiai favorite Wakaichiro’s stablemate Shoji of Musashigawa-beya swept all comers to his 7-0 record, and has wrapped up the yusho. Realistically his stiffest challenge came from fellow debutants Torakio and Sumidagawa.

Aki: Catching up on the “Ones to Watch”

Before the beginning of Aki, I selected 20 rikishi from the lower divisions to follow throughout the tournament, including some intriguing duels. While most of their selections were down to their impressive talent and track record in the areas of the banzuke we don’t usually cover, others were feel good stories — and in a couple cases down to potentially historic futility.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – Kizaki, who’s never suffered a make-koshi, got off to a rough start against should-have-been promotion contender Kotodaigo on Day 1. But he’s rebounded nicely to a 3-1 record, enhancing his promotion credentials if he can keep his win streak going. He faces Oitekaze’s Juryo rebound candidate Tobizaru on Day 9, who is also 3-1. The two men have never met in the ring.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Challenging for the yusho at 4-0, he’s now won 8 straight matches going back to Nagoya. He’s not had a particularly easy schedule but it will intensify as he goes for his 5th win on Day 9, when he comes up against 4-0 Ms3 Masunosho.

Ms16 Wakatakagake (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – I noted before the tournament that these guys had tracked each other’s results with career 18-3 records and that has continued, as both are 2-2. Wakatakakage knocked off Murata head-to-head on Day 1. They won’t be in action again until at least Day 10.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – After a promising start to his career, I marked this as an interesting basho to watch for Ikegawa who is fighting at a career high level, having reached it not without some difficulties. The difficulties may continue, as he’s 1-3.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – Obamaumi was my pick to follow as he has a second chance at consolidating his Makushita status, having stormed up to a new career high after a year-long layoff. He’s 2-2 after fortunately picking up a fusen win on Day 7 so he’s got a decent shot to hang in there.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – Ichiyamamoto has cruised through the lower levels after entering in Maezumo following University. That looks set to continue as he’s off to a 3-1 start, but will face a potentially stiff challenge on Day 9 in the also 3-1 Aomihama of Dewanoumi-beya.

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji looks set for a promotion as he’s 3-1 here, his sole loss coming from a visit to Makushita against Ichiyamamoto’s next opponent.

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – He’s only lost once in each of his 3 basho before now, and he was on track to better that until he ran into Tachiai favorite Enho. He’s 3-1 and will also push for a Makushita promotion.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – Miyagino’s burgeoning rockstar has continued his undefeated start to his career as he’s 4-0 and challenging for a third consecutive yusho. He faces a stern test on Day 9 against another 4-0 contender and former university man Ichiki, from Tamanoi-beya.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – As I remarked before the tournament, Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe and Tanabe had only ever lost to Enho. And that has also continued: Fukuyama is 3-1 having lost to Tanabe on Day 6, while Tanabe is 4-0 and likely won’t see Enho unless there’s a yusho playoff. Fukuyama is idle on Day 9 while Tanabe takes on 35 year old Kasugakuni in a battle of two unbeaten rikishi at the lower end of the Sandanme ranks, possibly to determine who gets to fight Enho later.

Here’s some video of Tanabe getting the better of Fukuyama for the third time:

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – We love Wakaichiro and have covered his basho extensively. He’s 2-2, but while he has a slight margin for a error in so much as he’ll almost certainly get promoted to Sandanme with 4 wins, we’re cheering for him to finish wish the maximum wins possible!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – The reigning Jonokuchi yusho holder was the other Jonidan rikishi I was looking at in this basho, but it doesn’t look like he’ll follow in the footsteps of so many others and make it two on the spin. His 3-1 record so far foreshadows a promotion to Sandanme if he can keep it going, but nothing less than perfection will do for the yusho.

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I marked out Shoji as a potential yusho winner before the basho and he is fulfilling that prediction so far with a 4-0 start. I also remarked that Torakio gave him a good run for his money in a Maezumo match that was better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in Makuuchi. However, while Shoji knocked off Torakio early to establish his dominance in their burgeoning rivalry, Torakio is 3-1 and clearly on course for a Jonidan promotion next time out.

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – And finally, the fight for futility. A refresher: Sawanofuji entered 9-48 with 7 wins against Hattorizakura. Hattorizakura entered 1-75 with 1 win against Sawanofuji. We knew they would match up, and they did, with Sawanofuji taking the match over the hapless Hattorizakura (video of a very difficult to watch match, below). Sawanofuji then picked up a fusen win – any more of that and we may see him in Jonidan next term! As for Hattorizakura… we wish him many bowls of chankonabe.

(video clips c/o One and Only on YouTube!)

Aki: More “Ones to Watch”

Enho

Much has been made on these pages of the opportunities for up and coming rikishi in this Aki basho. It’s exciting. And while we typically are looking at those Maegashira who will look to impose themselves and make things difficult for their most established counterparts, it’s worth taking a look further down the banzuke at the hundreds of sumotori outside the professional ranks.

Many of us have a few firm favorites – indeed, Wakaichiro‘s results will be well documented in these quarters – so I figured it’s worth sharing some of mine. I’m not going to catch all of the talented rikishi here, so feel free to share your own in the comments.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – I’ve covered Kizaki a couple times now in my Heya power rankings roundups as he may be the next name to make the jump to Juryo for Kise. Starting from maezumo in early 2016, he’s never suffered a make-koshi and has a pair of lower division yusho. He’s handled the transition to Makushita well and a strong tournament here could be the last before we see him as a professional.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – One of the most covered men at this level, he hasn’t made the dominant start that we’ve seen from others who have become household names in recent years after entering in the upper reaches of Makushita. This tournament could be a bellwether in determining whether he’s set for a fast track to sekitori status or whether it’s going to take some time for him to establish himself.

Ms16 Wakatakagake (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – Both these gentlemen entered the banzuke together at Sandanme 100 earlier this year and have more or less tracked each other’s results beat for beat (both are 18-3 lifetime with Wakatakagake holding a Sandanme yusho via a playoff win over Murata). As they start to make their move, it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to match results or if one can pull ahead.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – Another rikishi with back to back zensho in his first basho (being advanced for the levels), he’s stuttered a bit upon reaching Makushita. Will be interesting to see if he can assert himself upon reaching the upper tiers.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – Not actually named after the President, but I love stories of rikishi who fell completely off the map before storming back to career highs. He wasn’t able to capitalise on his Makushita debut (8 years into his career) in Nagoya, but he’s got a second bite at the cherry here.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He’s thrashed his way through the lower divisions after entering the banzuke in March. What’s next?

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Another rikishi who made quick work of the bottom two divisions, he’s slowly made his way through the crowded Sandanme tier this year. With injuries ravaging the top dogs at Isegahama, can he mark himself out as a consistent “one to watch”?

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – Wakatakakage and Murata are an entire division ahead of him having entered higher up the banzuke, but like his more esteemed rivals Ryuko has an 18-3 career record having coughed up 2 of those losses against the yusho winners in those respective basho. Now he’s placed to fight for his own yusho and in a position where a winning record could give him a strong Makushita bow in Kyushu.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – It’s 2 yusho in 2 attempts and now we’ll see what he’s made of. We’ve talked a bit about where the next superstar in Hakuho’s heya could come from, and he’s well placed to continue his rise.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – Fukuyama’s sole losses in his opening two basho have been to Tanabe (whose own sole losses have come at the hands of Enho). Bizarrely, Fukuyama continues to hold a slightly higher rank on the banzuke.

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Obviously!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – he won the Junokuchi yusho last time out, so worth a look. Will the schedulers put his road to another yusho attempt through our man Wakaichiro?

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – The highest ranked of the five debutants after a clean performance in Maezumo, Shoji is “old” for the level at 23 having come from Saitama University, so it’ll be interesting to see if he sweeps all comers. Torakio meanwhile lost to Shoji in a really decent match (especially for maezumo!) that lasted about a minute, where he had Shoji on the edge and gave him a real good Kotoshogiku-style hug-n-chug that was ultimately unsuccessful as his elder counterpart lifted him up and turned him around. But mostly I’m interested in how he gets on being a new Bulgarian entrant making his first appearance in a basho.

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – This is the battle of the bottom – two rikishi who just love sumo, and cannot possibly win. Sawanofuji is 9-48 lifetime with 7 of those 9 wins coming against Hattorizakura, whose astonishing 1-75 record in 11 basho served up his sole win against Sawanofuji. Sawanofuji (still only 16 despite making his 10th appearance at Aki) appears to be gaining some weight but Hattorizakura is unbelievably skinny despite being 3 years his foe’s senior. It seems unthinkable that these two will not meet again so long as they are both active, so perhaps Hattorizakura can break his streak of seven consecutive 0-7 tournaments!

Makushita Rikishi Updates (Shunba, Yago, Mitoryu)

This past week, Terunofuji tweeted a picture of Shunba from this past basho.

Along with this article on the Tsukebito system that featured Shunba’s mentoring of Terunofuji, I had also written about the debut of two college champions in Makuushita. However, I neglected to provide updates during the tournament on their performance. It’s difficult to follow these guys because rarely are videos taken or shared of their bouts.

These are links to YouTube videos of Shunba’s bouts. Click this image to see his post.

Fortunately for us, Shunba has his own social media presence, on Twitter as @shunba_sekito, and here’s his blog. His blog is great. It’s often hard to find video of lower-ranked rikishi but in his latest post he provides links to Youtube videos of his bouts from the last tournament. Please visit his site and click on the links over there. Unfortunately, he finished 1-6 after his fantastic 6-1 Makushita debut. So he will slide back down the banzuke, likely around Makushita 45 or so.

Mitoryu’s (Torbold Baasansuren) first bout was available on SumoDB but they didn’t have videos of Yago’s bouts. Mitoryu finished makekoshi, 3-4, but Yago did well at 5-2 and will rise toward the top of makushita. We may see him in Juryo in September or November if he continues to do well. I will try to do a better job of keeping up with makushita.

As for a cryptic test tweet last week and a follow up tweet about Chanko that many seemed to enjoy, I’m working on a secret project (I’ve dubbed it Project X). I’m very excited about it and hope to provide details on it by the end of June.