Wait a minute, Amazumo is back? And there’s video?

So, um…last night I’m chilling on the couch half-watching Mexican soccer (Go Pumas!) when a Twitter account that I follow posted the results of an amateur sumo tournament from Saturday. “Whaaaaaa?” I’ve been tracking the Japan Sumo Federation (日本相撲連盟) and the raft of canceled and postponed tournaments all spring and summer. Apparently, I’d not been following it closely enough because they decided to hold a big one. Journalism 101, Andy-man. Stay on top of things. Oops.

So…it turns out they hosted the Eastern Japan University Sumo Championships this weekend. The tweet had been the results of B and C squads the day before. Sunday was the A Team. A total of twelve schools participated, including many of the top Japanese Universities. From previous coverage of amazumo tournaments, you may be familiar with some of the bigger schools already. However, since this is an Eastern Japan thing, Kinki Daigaku, alma mater of Ozeki Asanoyama, was not participating. They’re in the Western part of Japan. Herouth has found the results of the Western version which happened this weekend, too.

So, which schools were participating in the East? Let’s see…Shodai’s Tokyo University of Agriculture, Mitakeumi’s Toyo University, Endo’s Nihon University (AKA, Nichidai), Shohozan’s Komazawa University, Yago’s Chuo University, and Nippon Sports Science University which produced the likes of Hokutofuji, Chiyotairyu, and Myogiryu. Other schools, like Meiji, Keio, and Waseda are more well-known for their academics rather than their athletics, but still participate. To round out the twelve, we’ve got Takushoku, Senshu, and Hosei. Waseda and Keio seem to be pretty big rivals, so that match-up was nice to see in the third round. Even more athletes from these schools are currently battling their way through the lower divisions, like Mitoryu or up-and-comer Hagiwara from Takushoku University.

These tournaments will lead up to the Major championships later this year. Those who do well in those tournaments are rewarded with advanced placement in the banzuke if they go pro, in either Sandanme or Makushita. Win a major amateur title and get placed in Makushita, like Endo. Runner-ups don’t go home empty handeded as they get slotted in Sandanme. But if you miss out, you start at the bottom like Shodai. So there’s a lot on the line for those who want to go pro.

I posted a bit of a teaser yesterday for an article and data viz tool that I’m working on. It turns out that it will be related. Now, I’m going to need to see if I can get university affiliation into my data. But what I’m hoping for is to build a vizualization that will allow us fans to visually track the progress of maezumo cohorts. As we see from the graph below, despite the relatively low numbers of debutantes lately, there’s still more than 60 new guys to follow each year and that can be a bit overwhelming to see which of these guys will be up-and-comers, grinders, or flame-outs. There are SO MANY stories in here, many of which we read up on thanks to Herouth, Josh, Tim and the rest of the team.

So, how’d the schools do at this tournament? Well, it’s no real surprise that Keio did not make it to the next phase. They had a real tough schedule and got swept in the first two rounds, and only picked off one win against rivals Waseda. Since Waseda finished in the top 8, they were able to move on to the elimination phase. Toyo University swept their opponents in all three rounds, qualifying at the top of the elimination bracket. They were followed by Nichidai, Chuo, Takushoku, and Nitaidai for the Top 5. Shodai’s Tokyo University of Agriculture finished sixth with 9 wins. Komazawa and Waseda rounded out the eight.

Well, the great thing about the tournament in the East is that for the second day, the Class A bouts — team and individual competitions — are all online. I encourage any fan of sumo to watch. The bouts happen very quickly. But if you want to skip forward to the elimination phase of the team competition, fast-forward to the 2 hour, 22 minute mark.

 

Nihon Sports Science University won the yusho. They defeated Toyo University in the semi-finals. The team, pictured below will be strong contenders for the National Championship later this year. However, I think Nichidai will have a better chance and they’re probably very disappointed to walk away tied for third with Toyo. Nichidai’s entire squad qualified for the individual finals and as Herouth points out, one of their team, Yersin Batagul from Kazakhstan, picked up the individual yusho.

The tweet below has pictures of the teams from the Final Four. Last is the yusho picture. I get the feeling Takushoku was just happy to be there. Nichidai seem disappointed and I expect they’ll fight hard at Nationals.

Welp, I need to run but I hope to dive into the individual bouts and the Western University tournament later tonight. But I wanted to get these highlights out for you all to enjoy. A real proper introduction to the university-level sumo is in the works and should be ready in the next few weeks, in preparation for the national championships.

68th Annual All-Japan Amateur Sumo Championship

Kokugikan hosted the Amateur Sumo Championship on Sunday. Koshiro Tanioka of Kinki University (近畿大) won the yusho. One of the favorites heading into the event was new college Yokozuna, Daiki Nakamura. You may remember that last month the first-year college student from Nippon Sports Science University (日体大) defeated Tanioka to capture the University title. If anyone had hoped for a rematch, they got it…in the round of 32!

That’s right, imagine Duke facing off against UNC on the first weekend of March Madness, perhaps a late game on Sunday night as everyone’s trying to get home for their 8 am classes. The freshman yokozuna was toppled after his first-round bye. Tanioka went on to win his next four matches (at total of six through the knockout phase) and captured the yusho! Tanioka had one loss in the earlier qualification stage so while Nakamura went undefeated in the prelims, this highlight matchup came early.

* Corrections made to some rather sloppy mistakes I made with the universities. Thank you Herouth! I’m glad I spelled UNC and Duke right. That would have been embarrassing. I think they’d retract my birth certificate over that. The university abbreviations are often two characters but were three on the torikumi list I saw, and that’s what I used for the data in the graph at the bottom.

I’m sorry this video picks up after the tachiai but it gives a great sense of the crashing disappointment felt by Nakamura as he realized he lost. His afternoon should have just started but it was suddenly all over and time to go home. Tanioka, on the other hand, exhibited great technique by dancing along the tawara but sneaking his hands in for a strong uwatedashinage.

The title bout was against a Kazakh prospect, Yelshin, from Nippon Daigaku (日本大). Tanioka got on his opponent’s nerves early with the matta games. He did this several times during the tournament. The hit-and-shift tachiai led to a quick, arms-length shoving match with Tanioka quickly sneaking in for a belt grip. The sudden pull forced Yelshin to one knee for an uwatenage win for Tanioka.

Ladies, Get a Load of the Size of That Belt Buckle!

I want to draw your attention not to the yusho trophy, which is quite nice or the Purple Ribbon of Greatness, but to the massive belt-buckle which would fit in quite well in Texas. Amirite, Bruce? This trophy may find itself next to the macaron and the mushrooms in my list of all-time-faves. The original of this comes from @die_is_cast_ on Twitter, who has more great pics of the winners.

An interesting component of this tournament is that it features sumo wrestlers from companies and the general public, even the occasional high school student. There were two such high school students in this year’s competition, including the high school yokozuna. Nippon Daigaku and Chuo Daigaku sent quite a few wrestlers, as did the Aishin corporation.

Number of Competitors per Institution

68th Annual Amateur Sumo Championship LIVE on NHK (Dec. 1: 5pm Japan time)

Nothing to see here…

Don’t let the official Sumo Kyokai website fool you, there’s definitely something going down at Kokugikan tomorrow. As Hakuho and the rest of the sekitori start Jungyo in Nogata, the best amateurs will gather at Kokugikan for the 68th All-Japan Sumo Championship. NHK will offer coverage from 5pm.

NHK Coverage

For those Tachiai readers lucky enough to be in Japan, be sure to tune in. You may see the next crop of sekitori. Past winners of this tournament include Yago, Endo, and Makuuchi yusho winner, Mitakeumi.