Nagoya Banzuke Live


banzuke-1

Complete Re-Rack of Sumo Stars.

We knew coming out of the tumultuious Natsu basho that everything was going to go strange for Nagoya, and it did indeed happen. We are delighted to report that the July banzuke is now live on the sumo associations website.

Notable highlights include

  • Takayasu’s first appearance as Ozeki
  • Mitakeumi’s first appearance as Sekiwake
  • Takakeisho rockets higher to Maegashira 1
  • Hokutofuji reaches the joi with his posting to Maegashira 2
  • Tochinoshin back in upper Maegashira after nearly washing out to Juryo a few tournaments ago

We are going to have a great July tournament. Tachiai’s wall to wall coverage starts now!

 

Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 1


Following mixed success in predicting the Natsu banzuke, I’m going to take a shot at Nagoya.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Terunofuji Goeido
O2 Takayasu  

The ranks here are determined by performance at Natsu, with the exception of Shin-Ozeki Takayasu, who will need to work his way up from O2e. Although we no longer have three sekiwake, Andy’s OCD will have to cope with three Ozeki instead.


Lower San’yaku

S Tamawashi Mitakeumi
K Yoshikaze Kotoshogiku

I would not be shocked to see Shodai at K1w in place of Kotoshogiku–will the NSK favor the popular up-and-comer or the grizzled vet?


The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4 ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition. When none of the rikishi in the San’yaku ranks are kyujo, there are currently 11 of them, so they need  to face 5 wrestlers outside the San’yaku to make up their 15 bouts. This takes us down to M3e. But as commenter Asashosakari noted, M3w has to face at least Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Kisenosato and Takayasu, who can’t face a wrester from the same heya. At Natsu, the numbers of San’yaku opponents for the M1-M4 ranks was 11, 11, 8, 9, 9, 5, 6, 2. So there was the expected drop-off at M3w (Aoiyama), but he and Tochiozan (M4e) still faced quite a few San’yaku opponents as a result of the combination of same-heya wrestlers and withdrawals of Kakuryu and Kisenosato. Shodai faced 3 San’yaku opponents (and defeated two of them!), and no one else ranked at M4w or lower faced more than 2.

Why “the meat grinder”? Well, as a group, these rikishi went a horrific 8-51 against their San’yaku opponents, a 0.136 winning percentage. The only one with more than one win was Endo, who sort of held his own at 4-7. Excluding his performance, the rest of this group went an abysmal 4-44 (0.083 winning percentage). Not surprisingly, the M1-M3 ranks will turn over completely, as they did after Haru, and most of this group will fall far down the banzuke, although Endo should hang on at M4.

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura
M4 Endo Kagayaki

Shodai will probably just miss out on a komusubi slot; one more victory would have sealed the deal. He and Ikioi and Endo are no strangers to this level of competition. Neither is Tochinoshin, who is dangerous if healthy. It’ll be interesting to see how Takakeisho and Hokutofuji acquit themselves at this level. I’m afraid Nagoya will be a “learning experience” for Ura, just like Natsu was for Daieisho. Kagayaki is just here to balance the columns and not needlessly trigger Andy’s OCD.

Part 2 will cover the lower maegashira ranks.

Natsu Sanshō / Special Prize Winners


Natsu Sansho

San’yaku Cleans Up

At the conclusion of every basho, the sumo kyokai award a series of special prizes. They are intended to recognize rikishi who have over-performed and achieved greatly in the basho. At the end of Natsu, 4 special prizes were awarded, and all but one went to members of the San’yaku.

Natsu Special Prizes

Ginō-shō (技能賞), Technique prize
Yoshikaze (his 3rd award)
Takayasu (his 2nd award)

Kantō-shō (敢闘賞), Fighting Spirit prize
Onosho (1st award)

Shukun-shō (殊勲賞), Outstanding Performance prize
Mitakeumi (1st award)

Onosho is notable in that he really tore through the ranks on his first Makuuchi basho, going 10-5 from Maegashira 14 rank. Mitakeumi was notable in that he defeated two Yokozuna in his Natsu matches.

Congratulations to all sanshō winners.

Natsu Wrap Up & Day 15 Highlights


Hakuho-15

The Boss Is Back

In completing his perfect yusho, Yokozuna Hakuho has made it clear that he is back in form and ready to resume his reign as the dai-Yokozua. It’s been a long, difficult road for Hakuho. After he injured his foot in Nagoya, he chose to miss Aki and undergo an operation to reconstruct his big toe and to fix parts of his knee. The recovery was not easy. The surgery and immobility afterwords had a bigger impact than I am sure he expected. As a result he has been under performing for months.

In that period, we have seen some rikish who would normally be eking out kachi-koshi scores here and there truly excel. This is in part because to top predator (and some of his cohorts) have been under performing, in culling rikishi from the ranks.

You can think of it this way, for Hakuho to get to 15 wins, the rest of Makuuchi had to absorb 15 losses. With Hakuho kyujo, someone else got those 15 wins. Everyone’s score increased. You got to see Kisenosato finally make Yokozuna, you got to see Goeido take a zensho yusho. You got to see Kakuryu rack up (at last) a yusho himself. It’s been a great year without a Hakuho. But now he is back, and he is genki and he is ready to rule once more.

A sign of that include his late pushes after a match have returned, so maybe he feels he is fine and will stay fine, and he is free to be Hakuho the great. This has huge implications for sumo for the next year or two. Specifically the other Yokozuna and anyone wishing to follow Takayasu up the Ozeki trail.

For a long time nobody but Hakuho could yusho. When he is / was healthy he is / was unstoppable. We saw that again here during Natsu. Is he back to that level? He wants you to think he is, to be sure. But is he? Maybe? But it’s clear that the one armed Yokozuna needs a repair job if he wants to contend once more. It would be brutally sad if Kisenosato had to follow Kakuryu into a series of revolving kyujos due to a combination of untreated and unresolved injuries, and a mighty, nearly unbeatable uber-sumotori at the top of the heap.

Chiyonokuni finished 2-13. He’s much better than that, and I think he still has a lot of promise. He just peaked hard when a lot of other sekitori were flailing, and he got caught in a storm of beat downs by everyone. He will recover, he will be back. He’s one to watch.

Okinoumi & Takarafuji finished 3-12. Both are old for rikishi, both have various performance limiting injuries. This is one of the problems with Makuuchi at the moment, its full of guys in their 30s. As a pure meritocracy, it’s full of people who can win, and those that can’t win go away over time. We are in one of those times, but because of the way the banzuke works, it could take a long time before fading veterans make way for the up and coming hard chargers.

Daieisho, Aoiyama, Takekaze, Toyohibiki, Myogiryu & Yutakayama finished 4-11. You might expect there to be a brutal banzuke thump down for these rikishi, but for every down there must be an up. And many of the pressure from the lower ranks you might expect did not materialize due to near absolute parity in Juryo. 13 Juryo wresters ended with 8-7 or 7-8.

Matches That Mattered On Day 15

Ura defeats Daishomaru – Ura does a reverse tachiai. You can rightly ask “what the hell was that?”, but hey! it worked! Was it a henka? No, not really. Was it strange? Yes. I thought I saw Daishomaru smiling and maybe giggling a bit over what had just happened, but then I had already had a glass of sake, so who knows.

Tochinoshin defeats Toyohibiki – Kind of sour ending by back to back henkas from Tochinoshin. I am going to guess he re-injured that mummified knee, and that’s why he henka’d his last two matches.

Ishiura defeats Takekaze – Ishiura gets to be Hakuho’s standard bearer – very happy for Ishiura, he pulled out a kachi-koshi on the last day. He has some work to do, and hopefully a healthy Hakuho can provide some assistance. His deshi needs some upgrades.

Tochiozan defeats Shohozan – Both end with 6-9, both are in the older crowd that is lingering around, due to lack of pressure from Juryo. Don’t get me wrong, Makuuchi is good sumo now, but it could and should be better. But right now Juryo is kind of broken for some reason I have not figured out. There should be a crop of early 20’s rikishi who stand these old guys on their ear daily, but that is not happening.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Hokutofuji joins the joi next basho, I would assume. It will be time to see if the up-and-comer has the mojo to really make a stand against the San’yaku. With a healthy Hakuho, it could be a blood bath again (as the basho were before he was hurt a year ago). Yoshikaze at this point is just running up his personal score. While we fans out side Japan mostly focus on what the NHK video shows us, it’s important to note that inside the sumotori community, everyone loves Yoshikaze, and I predict that once he retires and exercises his kabu, he is going to be a very big deal in sumo management indeed.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – Whatever they put in Shodai’s chanko the last few days, do keep it up! Next basho, we get Shodai back in the joi, and it’s bloodbath time for him, too!

Kotoshogiku defeats Ikioi – Well, that was like the Kotoshogiku of old. We should all enjoy it while it lasts. It’s sort of sad to see him fade, but I guess he is still calling his own outcomes, so I praise his persistence. Ikioi is still hit or miss, but then he has been for a while now.

Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Goeido 1.0 came back for old time’s sake. Now that Kadoban is lifted for a few months, he can afford to be unfocused. Please go get rested, ready and strong Goeido. Nothing would confound the critics and delight the fans more than a second basho full of Goeido 2.0. Who knows, you might even convince Hakuho to retire…

Terunofuji defeats Takayasu – I love the Kaiju when he’s on his sumo. Although I am a ginormous Takayasu fan, it was very good to see Terunofuji deploy all of his moves against the man who will be Ozeki. Even to the point of crushing his arms, which we have not seen in some time. People use to be afraid of facing this guy because they would leave the bout hurt. If Kisenosato can be restored to working order, Takayasu will make a great Ozeki. But while he is training on his own (like he was the for the past 2 months) he is vulnerable. The two are a team, and together they will excel.

Hakuho defeats Harumafuji – Kind of one for the ages. It was a great match, especially the series of moves Hakuho used to change the dynamics of the match and get Harumafuji un-stuck and moving backwards. Given Harumafuji’s re-injury to his ankle, I think he put on a hell of a performance. My complements to both men

Looking toward Nagoya


What a great tournament we just had! To me, what stood out is the large number of outstanding performances throughout the banzuke, from Hakuho‘s zensho yusho all the way down to Onosho‘s 10-5 record in his Makuuchi debut. Terunofuji got his Jun-yusho, and would have been in contention on the final day if not for his early hiccups on days 1 and 2. Takayasu handled the pressure and will be ozeki in Nagoya. Tamawashi may have started his own ozeki run, and has been fighting at that level. Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze held their own in San’yaku, and Shodai, Takakeisho, Tochinoshin, Hokutofuji, Ikioi, and Ura all put up great numbers in the maegashira ranks.

We don’t get the official Nagoya banzuke until June 26, but here are some early thoughts on the top and bottom of the banzuke.

The yokozuna ranks should get reshuffled as follows:

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu

We will have 3 ozeki: Terunofuji, Goeido, and Takayasu.

Tamawashi will keep his sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi should join him.

Yoshikaze will keep his komusubi rank, and I think Kotoshogiku did just enough to only drop down to the other komusubi slot.

We should have a strong new crop of upper maegashira, who may even fare better than their predecessors at these ranks:

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura

At the other end of the banzuke, Yutakayama, Myogiryu, and Toyohibiki will find themselves in Juryo, replaced in Makuuchi by Sadanoumi, Chiyomaru, and Nishigiki. I think Kaisei will just barely hang on to the top division at M16. They could swap him with Gagamaru, but what would be the point?

Full banzuke prediction to come once I’ve had some time to digest Natsu.

Natsu Day 15 Preview


Onosho

One More Time.

The end is nigh! Well, for this basho anyhow. It’s been great fun to write like a madman once more, and it’s hard to fathom that just last week I was in Tokyo. The whole thing turned into giant, sumo encrusted jet-lag blur. A very nice blur, but a blur none the less. But now all the clothes I took smell like those tatami mats, and I find I kind of like it. I am also having withdrawal symptoms due to a lack of Katsu Curry, or any real source of soup soba.

Much has been decided, and there are a few interesting things left to resolve. With Kotoshogiku and Takayasu out of Sekiwake, the promotion lanes are finally open again, and it’s a mad dog-pile to see which up-and-comer is going to stand out for a slot as a punching bag in Nagoya.

Then there are the rikishi who are on a knife edge to try and get a kachi-koshi bolted down.

  • Ishiura (fights Takekaze)
  • Kaisei (fights Kagayaki)

What’s going to happen in Juryo? Good lord, who knows! Well, actually the Juryo yusho will either be Nishikigi or Aminishiki, by some magic they both ended day 14 with 9 wins, and had not fought each other. I am sure the schedulers were doing high fives. Does Aminishiki get promoted to Makuuchi from Juryo 8 if he takes the Juryo yusho? Does Nishikigi get promoted if he takes the Jun-Yusho? I don’t envy the banzuke team for this one. I suggest the get well drunk, eat a giant box of Takoyaki, and make up something that rhymes.

Matches We Like

Daishomaru vs Ura – Special prize time for Ura? Can he crack 11 wins with some kind of win over Daishomaru? The only other time they fought, Daishomaru took him apart. I am hoping Ura still has a few magic beans left to eat before his match tomorrow.

Tochinoshin vs Toyohibiki – I call shenanigans! Paul Bunyon with 11 wins going against Shin-Juryo Toyohibiki? Ah well, double bonus points for a henka this time. Triple bonus if they do simultaneous henkae (sp?). Ceremonial Tonkatsu helmet for Toyohibiki if he can actually beat him.

Onosho vs Takakeisho – Both contenders for a special prize, winner should be given said prize, loser gets to drive around the streets of Tokyo in a go-kart dressed as a mini-Bowser.

Hokutofuji vs Yoshikaze – As noted there is some kind of weird San’yaku triangle / drinking game going on, and I am pretty sure it’s a good thing. Who gets to be crowned Sekiwake? Well, I am guessing it comes down to who wins matches today. This one should be good, as Hokutofuji is “strong like bull!”, while Yoshikaze is the kind of guy who can win against nearly anyone.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Another part of this triangle, will Mitakeumi take Shodai down? I will admit, Shodai has been looking rather solid the last 3 days, is he genki enough to contain Mitakeumi? Mitakeumi wants that Sekiwake slot, he has really been at Tamawashi levels for the last two basho.

Tamawashi vs Goeido – Winner gets double digits, I would love to see Goeido finish with 10 wins, but I am guessing that Tamawashi wants to go out on a win too. Get Goeido 2.0 on the phone, he needs to make an appearance at the Kokugikan today.

Terunofuji vs Takayasu – Time to try on the Ozeki rank one stop early. Hey, Takayasu! Today, move forward, no pulling, no moving backwards. You are one of the best yotsu-zumō around. How about you uncork a bucket of that and let the Kaiju have a whiff of the aroma of Ozeki Takayasu?

Harumafuji vs Hakuho – Well, this one is zensho-yusho. Harumafuji is hurt, but I am sure the rivalry between him and Hakuho will drive him to peak performance. I just hope that he comes out of it in an recoverable condition. Harumafuji is, in my opinion, unique in sumo for the present day. I hope he can stick with us in good condition for a few years more. Oh yes, in his interview today Hakuho looked really very happy. Like I have not seen Hakuho in a long time. It was quite pleasant.

Natsu Day 14 Highlights


Goeido

This Basho Keeps Giving

I have recalled many tournaments where things fade a bit on the last few days, the yusho is kind of a foregone conclusion, or there are no really competitive things going on except maybe a few top matches. Given the number of sekitori that have withdrawn, this seemed quite possible this basho, but it has kept fans engaged right up until the end. This is a fine example of the schedulers spinning gold out of straw, and I complement them without reservation.

We were following the Komusubi, and both of them locked up kachi-koshi today, which is a fantastic and interesting development. There is one Sekiwake slot open for July, and it’s going to come down to the final day and total win count to see who gets it. Either of them would be a great choice, but in spite of being a huge Yoshikaze fan, I think Mitakeumi is the better fit.

Although no one in the Japanese sumo press discussing this much, it’s clear that Harumafuji’s performance took a step down after his bouts earlier this week. He had very little power to ground with Goeido today, who (thankfully) had the mojo to exploit the weakness and drive to a win. There had been some cat calls over Goiedo’s easy path to lift kadoban, but with a win over a Yokozuna, he’s got nothing to hide from now.

Juryo keeps refusing to behave. We now have two rikishi at 9-5, and 12 (!) at 8-6. Furthermore, the two leaders right now are none other than long suffering sekitori Nishikigi, who would be welcome back in Makuuchi, and the relic Aminishiki, who is now 38 years old! Never give up, never surrender!

Highlight Matches

Chiyotairyu defeats Gagamaru – Chiyotairyu picks up his kachi-koshi, and holds onto Makuuchi in a match against Planet Gagamaru. Gagamaru is a real mixed bag, like Ichinojo, he probably relies too much on a lot of mass as a defensive system. There is a lot to be said for bulk in sumo, but there are a host of sumotori who lose mobility and attack power as their weight climbs. I would count Gagamaru among them. I bet he would improve greatly if he shed 10-15 kg before July.

Onosho defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is now make-koshi, and Onosho keeps rolling on. It’s really kind of impressive the sumo he has been able to put together on his Makuuchi debut, and I hope it’s a sign of good battles to come. Arawashi was late in setting up his throw, and was out before he could swing Onosho down.

Shohozan defeats Kaisei – Kaisei’s demotion to Juryo or persistence in Makuuchi comes down to the final day, he is now at 7=7 after his loss to Shohozan.

Takakeisho defeats Ura – Ura has still never beaten Takakeisho in a match. Today Ura looked out of control, vague and confused. Takakeisho had Ura under control and off the dohyo in a hurry, and it was really impressive.

Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Ok… Endo beats two Ozeki and a Yokozuna this basho. He even put Yoshikaze away on day 11. Yet he is deeply make-koshi, and lost to a Maegashira 7 today. Granted, Hokutofuji is a powerful up-and-comer, but Endo either has some mechanical injury, or needs to get his mind in his sumo. We hope the stretch between now and July can help him get things together.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochiozan – Solid match from both, but it was all Yoshikaze today. He gets his kachi-koshi and will stay in San’yaku for July. I also get the impression that Yoshikaze is really have fun with his sumo this basho. He has not looked this dialed in since last summer.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – HENKA! The NHK commentator, Hiro Morita, was really upset by this. But let’s get real here, Tochinoshin was squirrels before the tachiai, he practically telegraphed this to Tamawashi. Tamawashi, keep your head up and eyes on your opponents center of mass during the tachiai. Everyone who plays a football lineman in the US understands this. It’s not that tough.

Kotoshogiku defeats Daieisho – Ojisan seems really sullen and resigned now, and it’s a bit depressing. I am sure he is trying to figure out if he stays in as he floats down the banzuke, or if he takes his kabu and transitions into a behind the scenes role. He is now and can always be a big deal in sumo, but he continues to diminish.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – This one was a bit of a surprise, and in my book, it was Takayasu who made a few mistakes and Shodai who had the sumo sense to make him pay. It’s possible he was out celebrating with his mother and father (and friends) last night, and may have been a bit ragged during the match. Shodai kept moving forward, no matter what, thus he won.

Goeido defeats Harumafuji – Harumafuji is back to suffering from his lower body problems. It robs him of mobility and a strong stable platform to bend opponents into odd shapes and hurl them into the sun. He will close out the basho with a respectable double digit record, and what could be a really fun match with Hakuho. Much respect to Harumafuji indeed!