Early Monday, Japan time, the Musashigawa heya announced that Texas rikishi Wakaichiro had retired in the prior week. This will come as a great disappointment to sumo fans around the world, who has been following is journey from novice to mid-level competitor.
For his fans, we are going to miss reports of his matches and occasional video clips that were snuck out on twitter and YouTube. Following his retirement, reports say that he has left Japan for the time being, and has returned to the United States to plan the next stage of his life. Along with all of his followers, we wish Mr Young nothing but the best of luck in the next stage of his life. Team Tachiai are grateful for the chance to use him as a vehicle to learn more about the life of a rikishi who starts out from nothing, and works his way into the world of sumo.
Wakaichiro himself had stated at the beginning of his adventure in the world of sumo, that he would give it a few years and see if he could make something of himself, and if not he would end his adventure with a winning record (he finished Hatsu 5-2) and his head held high. True to his word, he did exactly that. Fans will wonder about the timing of his retirement, just before the workup for Osaka. I can share that he has been nursing a set of chronic injuries, and it was becoming clear to him that he was not going to be able to treat them to the point of recovery, and the limitations those injuries placed on his sumo would prevent him from reaching the top ranks of the sport.
What’s next for Mr Young? Time will tell. He’s a young man with a lot of courage, charisma and drive. His efforts in the world of sumo will do wonders for his future, as his origin story now includes a very rare suite of experiences and accomplishments. His years in sumo will likely have imparted with drive, courage and perseverance in the face of physical and mental adversity. I predict good things for him.
With a few asterisks, we’ve concluded Match Day 1 for rikishi from the lower four divisions. The men from these divisions only fight seven times during the tournament, so the first half fought on opening night and most of the rest (who aren’t kyujo) fought last night. So on the first night we got to see the return of Wakaichiro and Ura’s first bout was last night.
I figure I’ll start here with the rookies, Mudoho, Nihonyanagi, and Dewanoryu.
Two willow trees, Nihonyanagi was next, (“Over the oka and through the mori, to Roppongi we go”). Conveniently, he fought against our other debutant, Dewanoryu. Both were introduced by Herouth in the article link above.
Nihonyanagi secured a morozashi quickly after a rather defensive (oshi-minded) tachiai. Once he secured that left hand inside, right hand outside, he began to yank Dewanoryu around at will. to the side of the dohyo. Dewanoryu’s next match is scheduled tomorrow against Hattorizakura, one of our asterisks, in that he has not fought yet. Taiga is also kyujo to start this tournament and he will likely compete once to stay on the banzuke. Ryuden did this several times before storming back and becoming the Maegashira mainstay we know and love today. May Taiga be so blessed.
In Jonidan, we’ve got Senho who jumped from Jonokuchi into the midst of the division at Jd74 (of 108 ranks). Unfortunately for him, he lost against the more experienced, dedicated pusher-thruster in Harada. And unfortunately for us, I’ve not been able to find video anywhere because Harada won by yoritaoshi and I’m very curious about how that worked out. But the headliner in Jonidan is former maegashira Ura in his second tournament back. He dominated Sorakaze from the outset, with an oshidashi win. After a good tachiai, he worked his left hand inside Sorakaze’s right arm, grabbed him by the armpit, and ejected him from the dohyo. All of his wins last tournament were of the oshi-tsuki variety.
Unfortunately, in Sandanme we have the late-timed intai of Kaishu for personal reasons. He was still on the banzuke and his retirement came as quite the surprise. He’s been active on Instagram, where he’s been updating his story from what looks like the Philippines? Yesterday Kobayashi-san was riding along a road as an apparent passenger on one of those hire-bikes. The day before he was at a water park. We wish him well in his post-sumo endeavors and we’ll keep people filled in on his future successes.
Wakaichiro fought against Baraki on Day 1 and unfortunately came away with a loss. He was a bit off balance for a lot of the bout and it looked like he’d recovered well for a moment but Baraki was able to finish him off. Sadly, I can’t find video. This is surely a lamentable predicament for the former American Footballer since studying one’s past games and those of one’s opponents is such a crucial part of practice in that sport, and he’ll need it for his next fight against Fujinowaka. Both men are Oshizumo specialists, so it will likely be a strength vs strength bout.
Hokutenkai on the West, or left side, of this video faced off against the appropriately named Azumasho. The Mongolian has had an exceptional start to his career with a 6-1 debut followed by the Jonidan yusho in Kyushu. He’s proven himself comfortable with oshizumo but he is able to win on the belt as well. The strong blast at the tachiai pressed the bigger Azumasho back on the defensive. Azumasho hunkers down and forces a shift to a belt battle. Hokutenkai is not shy about it and starts to get to work. Just as Azumasho’s foot gets to the bales (and I’m sure he could have withstood a yorikiri attempt) Hokutenkai executes a great uwatenage overarm throw.
Up in Makushita, we got another great uwatenage from Kitanowaka against Narutaki.
Roga battled Onami Jr, sorry, Wakatakamoto but I can’t find video. Sorry.
A bit further up we get a humdinger of a bout between a former Makuuchi regular, Chiyonokuni, and Mudoho’s big brother Naya. Chiyonokuni wound up and tried to deliver a whopper of a slap to Naya but landed two – rather ineffectively – at his shoulder/armpit instead. The younger man forced the issue and kept bringing the oshi-battle to the grizzled veteran. As Chiyonokuni ducked away, Naya pursued, and thrust his prey out with a forceful final blast. I may be over-stating this point but that’s the kind of power I’d like to see Abi develop behind his attack to get to the Ozeki level.
Well, action has already started for Match Day 2, so I bid y’all adieu.
Following our earlier, proper preview post, here are a few “ones to watch” from Day 1’s action. If you’re a follower of lower division activity then you may well look forward to some of these…
Hattorizakura (Jk34) vs Chiyotsurugi (Jk33) – The main man Hattorizakura gets the basho underway, with a current losing streak of 24 very much under threat from lowest ranked debutant Chiyotsurugi.
Senho (Jk31) vs Urutora (Jk32) – Another Hakuho recruit, Senho starts his career against Hattorizakura’s mildly higher achieving but still tiny 30 year old stablemate, who makes his return to action after a lengthy layoff.
Ayaminato (Jk29) vs Hokutenkai (Jk29) – As referenced in the recent Tachiai Podcast, I’ve been looking forward to Hokutenkai’s debut since seeing him in action earlier this year during a keiko session at Onoe beya. He’s the nephew of former sekitori Takanoiwa.
Nishikio (Jk26) vs Murata (Jk27) – Murata, who had a storming start to his career and made it to the very edge of the line separating heaven and hell at Makushita 1, is slated to return following sporadic appearances during a long injury layoff which slowed his descent down the banzuke. Will he be back or will this be it for the basho?
Motobayashi (Jd16) vs Imafuku (Jd18) and
Marusho (Jd15) vs Tochinoshima (Jd17):
I’ve bracketed these both together as Marusho and Motobayashi (the winner) were two of the three Naruto beya recruits to contest the Jonokuchi playoff in an intra-heya battle last time out. The third, Sakurai, is not in business on Day 1. Both of them get veterans who more or less live at this level.
Wakaichiro (Sd67) vs Fujitaisei (Sd67) – Wakaichiro fans will cheer him on from his highest banzuke appearance to date. Curiously he gets an opponent who was recruited into the original Musashigawa stable before Musashimaru branched off the current version (hat tip to Asashosakari for the catch). American fans will want to note that Wakaichiro’s stablemate Musashikuni is listed as kyujo from the basho, so he’ll be the sole American representative from Musashigawa at least to start the tournament.
Tokisakae (Sd44) vs Oyamatoumi (Sd43) – Jonidan yusho winner Tokisakae makes his Sandanme bow in this match, and the former university man should be expected to plough through the division again this time out before facing tougher scrutiny in November.
Yoshoyama (Sd17) vs Hisanotora (Sd17) – The 21 year old Mongolian Yoshoyama, who entered with some degree of fanfare a couple years back, has made very slow and steady progress, but the wheels came off in his last tournament when he made his Makushita debut. He’ll be looking to right the ship.
Ayanoumi (Ms47) vs Chiyonokuni (Ms46) – The feisty man from Mie, Chiyonokuni makes his return to the dohyo, and will attempt to kickstart his career from Makushita 46. Here’s hoping he can follow the path trodden by the likes of Tochinoshin and vault himself back to even higher successes.
Shiraishi (Ms42) vs Okinofuji (Ms42) – Hot prospect and former Sandanme Tsukedashi man Shiraishi will look to follow up last tournament’s 5-2 with a second strong appearance in the third tier. He takes on a long time Makushita veteran, and no prizes for guessing he might be a stablemate of Okinoumi and Hokutofuji at Hakkaku beya.
Wakatakamoto (Ms22) vs Hatooka (Ms22) – It really would be lovely to get all 3 Onami brothers up towards the sekitori ranks, especially with Arashio oyakata set to yield the stable early next year to Sokokurai. 27 year old Wakatakamoto seems to take a step back for every step forward, so a first win here would be good progress.
Chiyoarashi (Ms18) vs Hakuyozan (Ms17) – Hakuyozan had a promising start to his sekitori career before being derailed by injury, and then had a horror show in the last basho upon his return. He needs to stop the rot in this tournament otherwise he may be facing a very difficult journey back.
Naya (Ms10) vs Toyohibiki (Ms10) – Another decent bellwether for the up and coming top talent, Naya faces longtime top division man Toyohibiki as he gets his Aki basho underway.
Midorifuji (Ms4) vs Kototebakari (Ms4) – A classic big vs small match as two very promising, perhaps second tier prospects face off on Day 1, with promotion very much a realistic possibility with a good result in this basho.
Light schedule today, as most of our favorites will compete this weekend to try and sort out their final scores. There are a lot of matches that will decide the promotion picture to come on Saturday, so followers of our “Ones to Watch” will be guessing right up until the end. On to today’s matches!
Naya vs Daiseido – A lot of fans are dissapointed that Naya has 4 losses already, and won’t be in the Makushita joi-jin for Aki. Like so many solid rikishi before him, he will drift back down the banzuke, and work to challenge “the wall” again.
Roga vs Ichiki – 4-2 Roga, in spite of his Oyakata’s public shaming, is kachi-koshi and will get to remain in Makushita for September. This one determines where he places next, and although he has fought well this tournament, I think he will find himself out-gunned if he gets much higher in the ranks.
Amakaze vs Kaiho – 4-2 bracket match, both are kachi-koshi, so this is to dial in how much promotion mojo is added to the September banzuke. Amakaze has looked well for a man who had some critical knee surgery.
Wakaichiro vs Fujihisashi – Darwin match, both come in at 3-3, so the winner gets kachi-koshi, the loser make-koshi and likely returns to Jonidan. Wakaichiro has faced the pressure of this kind of situation in prior basho, so we know he can pull it out. The two are evenly matched size and weight. Go Texas Sumo!