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.