Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


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

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

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

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

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

Upper Maegashira

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

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

Mid-Maegashira

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

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

Lower Maegashira

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

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

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

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

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 1 – Yoshikaze, 35 Year Old Sekiwake


Yoshikaze

Readers of the site know that I am a huge fan of Yoshikaze. I sometimes refer to him a “The Berserker”, out of deference to the norse warriors who would throw themselves into battle with no regard for their safety or survival. As a result, Yoshikaze frequently ends a basho with his face a bloody mess, and has at least once been hospitalized for his injuries.

After two tournaments with winning records at Komusubi, Yoshikaze now finds himself at the rank of Sekiwake. This is not his first time at this rank, having held it for the first two basho for 2016. What makes his current posting unique is his age. Yoshikaze is now 35 years old. I have been trying plumb the depths of sumodb to see how many rikishi have been able to rank at Sekiwake at 35 or above, but I would assume that the number is small.

From all reports, Yoshikaze is taking it all in stride, and even joked that he could in fact become the oldest rikishi ever promoted to Ozeki. While I don’t think anyone expects that, it would be a wonderful thing to see.

We look forward to Yoshikaze’s return to the Sekiwake rank, and his tour through a banged-up San’yaku.

Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


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

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

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


Lower San’yaku

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

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

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

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

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

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

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

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

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

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

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

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

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

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

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

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

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

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

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

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

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

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

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

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

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

Nagoya Follow Up #4 – Mitakeumi’s Sekiwake Debut


Mitakeumi Kensho Stack

In early July, we anticipated that shin-Sekiwake Mitakeumi would make the most of finally breaking into the Sekiwake rank, after waiting for multiple basho for a slot to open up.

Nagoya marked a milestone achievement for Mitakeumi, after nearly a year bouncing between Maegashira 1 and Komusumi, he was finally able to land a position at Sekiwake. Mitakeumi has had a fascinating career since he joined professional sumo in 2015 (yes, just two years ago). He came from being a college Yokozuna at Toyo University, straight to a started rank of Makushita 10, where he proceeded to kick everyone’s butt in brilliant and overwhelming fashion, including taking the Yusho in his first basho in Juryo.

It was clear from the start that Mitakeumi was never going to slow down, and he has been continuing to be the leader of the class of the new generation of rikishi. He has been competing at Sekiwake for at least two basho prior to Nagoya, but the clog of Takayasu waiting to move up and Kotoshogiku waiting to move down prevented him from taking his slot to begin an Ozeki campaign.

That campaign likely did not start at Nagoya, as it seems young Mitakeumi still needs to tune up a bit before he can start pressing for double digit wins at Sekiwake, turning in a 9-6 result and a second Shukun-sho (outstanding performance) special prize. His Nagoya record includes a rather impressive defeat of dai-Yokozuna Hakuho, handing him his only loss, and braking any chance he could start another run at the Futabayama consecutive win record. He also defeated the damaged Yokozuna Kisenosato on the first day.

With his winning record and outstanding performance, he remains at Sekiwake, and will push for double digits in Tokyo this September. For Aki, we anticipate that he will be Sekiwake 1 East, and play foil to both kadoban Ozeki, each of which will need to score a win against him to help stave off demotion.

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 Day 10 Highlights


Captain-Kensho

Valor In Defeat.

Day 10 brought few surprises, but a massive amount of outstanding sumo action to Nagoya. Again the stand out match revolved around crowd favorite Ura, who was unable to be Takayasu, but threw everything he had at the big Ozeki. Fans appreciated both the unquenchable fighting spirit shown by Ura, and the stability, poise and patience from Takayasu.

Takakeisho showed no less fighting spirit in his match against Yoshikaze, who was not phased in the least by the youngster’s manic attack plan. Yoshikaze is an interesting figure in sumo. He is a fantastic all around athlete, and would have likely been successful in sports other than sumo, as he played baseball in college, too. This augments his sumo in that he can perform moves that others might not have the overall physique to attempt. We don’t frequently see him lift an opponent, but today Yoshikaze carried Takakeisho out like it was his bed time.

Ichinojo gets rightfully accused of being a big slow container ship in a mawashi, but today his exhausting marathon grapple with Tochinoshin is the stuff of epics. Both men knew going into this bout that it was going to be a contest of strength and stamina, and Ichinojo had the ability to hold his own in a contest of might.

Highlight Matches

Takarafuji defeats Gagamaru – Takarafuji secures his kachi-koshi by taking advantage of Planet Gagamaru’s spherical shape, and rolling him around the dohyo to victory. The laws of physics are a harsh mistress, and wise is the rikishi who studies Isaac Newton and Galileo.

Takekaze defeats Nishikigi – After a blistering start, Nishikigi is now in a 4 bout losing streak, and his remaining in Makuuchi is starting to look questionable. Takekaze, of course, seems timeless and is able to concoct a winning strategy for nearly any opponent this far down the banzuke.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daishomaru – Great to see the scion of Kokonoe beya back in the fray. After a miserable Natsu and a weak start in Nagoya, he seems to be in his grove and applying himself well.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – The man moutain Aoiyama delivers the doom against Chiyotairyu, who was looking to lock down his kachi-koshi today. Aoiyama will be much further up the banzuke in Tokyo, and with any luck he will expand his catalog of sumo techniques and recuse himself well.

Kotoyuki defeats Ishiura – Facing a ride on the shame train back to Juryo, Kotoyuki decides he is going to really engage and fight. He put away Ishiura today, who drops to 5-5. Kotoyuki’s next loss locks in a make-koshi and a demotion.

Onosho defeats Tokushoryu – In what has been called by some the “Battle of the Angry Tadpoles”, Onosho has come away with his kachi-koshi. His performance since joining Makuuchi in May has been impressive, and I would be interested to see if he scores his second special prize this basho.

Yoshikaze defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho was destined for a make-koshi this tournament, and today the Berserker delivered. Takakeisho will be back stronger and greatly improved. I sincerely hope that many of his matches this basho helped him explore the need to expand his sumo, and the staggering variety of tactics a solid Makuuchi rikishi can and will deploy in just a few seconds.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – It was not even close. Shodai has a raging problem with being consistent in his delivery, and as we oft repeat here, his tachiai is sloppy and high. Mitakeumi, being a squat, burly fellow, knows he can keep Shodai high and quickly run him out.

Kotoshogiku defeats Goeido – Wow! The Kyushu Bulldozer side steps the Goeido war-charge and succeeds.

Takayasu defeats Ura – Both rikishi really impressed today. I encourage readers who have time to re-watch the match a few times, and one viewing focus on just Takayasu, and another viewing focus on just Ura. When Ura deploys the knee grab, there is a moment where Takayasu is doomed, and he thinks through it in a blink of an eye and counters to win. That, dear readers, was a masterful move.

Hakuho defeats Chiyoshoma – Of course he did. But he played with Chiyoshoma for a bit first. I swear he and the Mole Boss discuss match strategies. The Boss is now at 1046, one away from tying Kaio’s all time win record. Hakuho zensho looking increasingly likely. At this point, I am keen to see him do it again.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Prior to Nagoya, there was a good amount of discussion that Tamawashi would be the next sumotori to reach for Ozeki promotion. Tamawashi is very good, but he is perhaps one notch below the level needed to vie for Ozeki. It will be interesting to see who the schedulers throw at him for the final 5 days, as he needs to find a way to 3 more wins to stay at Sekiwake.

Personal Note – Bruce is on a business trip today, so posting will happen at odd times and may be lacking depth and detail.