Ozeki Goeido Clears Kadoban, Sole Aki Basho Leader


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Ozeki Goeido, Once Again Free of Kadoban Status

During day 9 action, Kadoban Ozeki Goeido scored his 8th win in a match against Aoiyama, marking his kachi-koshi and the removal of the kadoban status from his rank. This means Goeido is no longer at risk of losing his rank. Meanwhile, the rest of the basho co-leaders lost on day 9, leaving Goeido as the sole leader for the Emperor’s Cup with 6 days of competition to go.

Tachiai congratulates Ozeki Goeido, and wish him good fortune in defending his lead against an army of eager challengers.

Ozeki Terunofuji Withdraws From Aki


Terunofuji

Having re-injured the knee he had surgery for, our favorite Kaiju – otherwise known at Terunofuji, has decided to accept reality and withdraw from the Aki basho. This means that he will appear on the banzuke as a Sekiwake at Kyushu, and will have one chance to regain his Ozeki rank – with a score of at least 10 wins.

A healthy Terunofuji is capable of that kind of performance, but it remains to be seen if there is any road back from the damage he has sustained.

As we are quite fond of Terunofuji, we will be hoping and begging the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan to convene with the deities to speed his healing.

Aki Story 2 – Goeido & Terunofuji Kadoban


Kadoban

A recurring theme in the past year has been the problems with the current crop of Ozeki, and their tendency to turn in losing records. Ozeki do not get demoted when they end a tournament with a majority losing record. It is, perhaps, a nod to the great difficulty required to rack up 33 wins over the course of 3 tournaments. Instead they get a “warning” that a second consecutive losing record will demote them to Sekiwake. An Ozeki in this state is declared “Kadoban”. This in fact happened to Kotoshogiku within the last year, and he was sadly unable to resurrect his Ozeki rank in the following tournaments. He continues to fade.

Headed into Aki, both Terunofuji and Goeido are at risk of demotion. Goeido was in this status last year entering the Aki basho, and responded by racking up 15 straight victories and taking the yusho. Sadly Goeido could not parlay this into a consistent elevation in performance, and has mixed results for the following tournament. His breathtaking Aki performance led us to coin the term “Goeido 2.0”, which described what seemed to be an entirely different rikishi. He was bold, committed and attacked with a ferocity that left no room for retreat. But Goeido suffered a significant ankle injury during Hatsu, and was forced to seek treatment that included steel pins and plates.

Similarly, Terunofuji underwent surgery in June to attempt repair on his knee, an injury that frequently kept him from top performance. Sadly it was not healed enough for competition when Terunofuji began the Nagoya basho, and he soon withdrew. Since going kyujo, he retired to his native Mongolia for recovery and training, and his working hard to be in condition for the basho.

Both of these men are fierce competitors, and we hope that both of them can clear their kadoban status with style. If reports of injury among the Yokozuna hold true, it may provide some relief to both men, who would find their schedules a bit easier, and their chances of a solid winning record increased.

Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


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

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

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


Lower San’yaku

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

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

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

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

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

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

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

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

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

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

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

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

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

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

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

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

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

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

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

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

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

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

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

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

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

San’yaku Torikumi Forecast


Since the schedulers only give us the Torikumi one day in advance, it’s fun to speculate about the days ahead. Below is a guess for the bouts for the remaining San’yaku rikishi for days 12-15. Others who know more about scheduling than I do should chime in.

  Day 12 Day 13 Day 14 Day 15
Hakuho Tamawashi Goeido Takayasu Harumafuji
Harumafuji Mitakeumi Takayasu Goeido Hakuho
Goeido Tochiozan Hakuho Harumafuji Takayasu
Takayasu Kagayaki Harumafuji Hakuho Goeido
Tamawashi Hakuho Hokutofuji Ura Kagayaki
Mitakeumi Harumafuji Tochinoshin Ikioi Chiyoshoma
Yoshikaze Tochinoshin Ikio Kagayaki Ura
Kotoshogiku Shodai Ura Tochinoshin Hokutofuji

The Yokozuna schedule should be very straightforward. The only question is the order in which they face the Ozeki, and given the cache of the HakuhoTakayasu bout, I’m guessing they’ll hold it till day 14, even though Goeido is ranked higher than Takayasu on the Banzuke.

This also sets the Ozeki schedule except for day 12. They will already have fought the rest of the San’yaku and the upper maegashira after day 11, and Kagayaki and Tochiozan are next in line. Given his stronger record, I have Takayasu facing the higher-ranked of the two.

The two sekiwake have their remaining Yokozuna bouts on day 12, and then face the upper maegashira they haven’t fought yet. The two komusubi are done with their San’yaku schedule, and will face maegashira from here on out.

Beyond the high-rank bouts with obvious yusho implications, I’m looking forward to Ura facing Kotoshogiku, Tamawashi, and Yoshikaze, as I’m sure is everyone else. Goeido is fighting to avoid kadoban status. All four sekiwake/komusubi slots are mathematically up for grabs (although Mitakeumi needs only one more win), with multiple candidates to move up to the San’yaku should slots open up, so the remaining Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji bouts also have a lot of meaning and should be fun to watch.

It’s looking like a great final act to Nagoya!

Nagoya Story 5 – Shin Ozeki Takayasu


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From Silver To Black.

It has been two years since sumo had a new Ozeki. The barrier to entry is huge, requiring consistent high performance over a series of tournaments to even be considered. As Kisenosato’s tireless practice partner, Takayasu has maintained super-human focus on training endlessly for years.

Once before he was on the cusp of earning enough wins to be considered for promotion, just to let his achievement slip from his fingers in Kyushu when he had a disappointing 7-8 maki-koshi. But this only seemed to renew his resolve and his drive to succeed. Even with is training partner Kisenosato seriously injured with a pectoral rupture, he found ways to stay strong and practice his sumo. This all paid off in Tokyo this past May as he racked up 11 wins, and clinched his promotion.

Now at the steamy tropical Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya, we will see Ozeki Takayasu take the dohyo. Takayasu fights under his real name, which is unusual in sumo, and even more rare for the upper, named ranks. While normally he wears a silver mawashi, he has changed to traditional black, which is expected of Ozeki and Yokozuna. We can assume Takayasu takes his role very seriously (the one knock against the guy is maybe he is too serious), and will perform his duties as Ozeki with great pride.

As an Ozeki, his torikumi will take some interesting twists. When he was Sekiwake, he provided fodder and tune-up fuel for the Yokozuna and Ozeki during the first week. As an Ozeki, he will face all of the other Ozeki and all of the Yokozuna during the final week of the basho. His rotation in who he fights and when will be more or less inverted – his opponents he used to face in week 1, he will now face in week 2.

Tachiai has been tight followers of Takayasu for some time, and we will be watching with great interest has he starts his first tournament as an Ozeki.

Video Of Takayasu’s Ozeki Promotion


Overnight US time, Tagonoura beya sumotori Takayasu Akira was promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. As with these promotions, messengers from the Nippon Sumo Kyokai arrived at a hotel conference room that had been configured for a formal ceremony in front of the press.

Westerners may find it interesting there are microphones on the floor, but once the messengers arrive, members of both the stable’s party and the NSK’s party assume a deeply respectful saikeirei bow during both the announcement and the acceptance.

But like so many things in the wonderful country of Japan, once all of that formal stuff is over, it’s time to celebrate. To the delight of many fans, Yokozuna Kisenosato was present for the celebration (among many others).  Kisenosato and Takayasu have been long term training partners and stable mates, and it is my opinion that neither would have reached their current rank without the other’s constant support.

Congratulations to Takayasu, you earned it!

Some additional video from NHK here