Sumo debates for 2020 – 2/3

6. Will Terunofuji compete in maku’uchi in 2020 ? Where will he end up this year ?

The nostalgic question. If Tochinoshin produced the mother of all comebacks back in 2014, rising again from makushita to maku’uchi, Terunofuji’s remarkable comeback is a very impressive one. Still an ozeki in September 2017, he started 2018 as a maegashira 10, lasted two bashos in juryo, and, after finally taking care of his health, went as low as jonidan 48 in March 2019. He just lost three bouts during his return to the salaried ranks, which he achieved at the end of the past year.

Terunofuji’s return has been even more impressive that he stayed weakened. Pictures were circulating on social medias, with Terunofuji’s knees horribly taped. He only managed to do suri-ashi by the end of 2019 – which should significantly improve his chances.

Is he back ? Former ozeki Terunofuji

Many followers – myself included – have fantasied about the former ozeki’s return. Will he return to maku’uchi ? Will he, incredibly, regain his ozeki rank, as prophetized by Murray Johnson ? Or will his progress be halted ?

Herouth answers this question cautiously. Will that change, with the Mongolian’s condition having improved ? Terunofuji set his aim: reaching maku’uchi before the Olympics.

My prediction: it’s hard going against my inner wishes. I’d be foolish, though, not hearing Herouth’s wisdom. I’d say Terunofuji to finish the year in juryo after a stint in maku’uchi.

7. Where will Ichinojo finish the year ?

Makushita or below / juryo / maku’uchi (maegashira) / maku’uchi (san’yaku)

Another question related to injury issues. Ichinojo’s talent is obvious. After a good 2018 year (five tournaments spent in san’yaku), the Mongolian started 2019 equally well – two kinboshi despite a 6-9 record in January, and a career best 14-1 in March led people believe he’d start an ozeki run.

However, Ichinojo’s strength caused him serious back problems – his weight rose up to 230 kg. He had to sit out of the Kyushu basho after having finished the Aki basho with a 1-4-10 record. As a consequence, he will start the new year sitting deep at juryo 7.

I can’t help but have depressing thoughts of a crossed interview of then newbies Ichinojo and Terunofuji in 2014, as they set up a “race” between them towards ozeki promotion. If Terunofuji achieved that feat, they now find themselves together, sadly, in juryo, more than five years later.

Back to fitness ? Ichinojo Takashi

Hopefully, Ichinojo will be rolling back the years. Having lost 24 kg, his weight will appear close to the one he had in 2014, when he got promoted to maku’uchi.

My prediction: I see him back to the maegashira ranks.

8. Will Enho stay in maku’uchi in 2020 ?

A provocative question. Enho is a crowd favorite, and did wonders in 2019. He started the past year at juryo 8, and will start the current one at a career best maegashira 5. He displayed a great variety of techniques, and finished the year with three straight kachi koshi. In his whole career, Enho just had two make kochi – one in juryo in March 2018, and one during his maku’uchi debut in May 2019.

The question is, of course, related to his weight. So far, it is tempting to say that weighing less than 100 kg has been more of an asset than a weakness for him.

Nevertheless, Enho will have some issues to face: will he be able to maintain his impressive form? The crowd favorite started using more deliberate henka’s during the last tournament of 2019. Will he be able to renew his range of techniques, and will he be able to surprise again his opponents ? Or will the surprise effect vanish, and will he slide back to juryo ?

Currently at career best maegashira 5 : Enho Akira

Comparison has been made with former wrestler Mainoumi, who was about the same size as Enho, and had a successful maku’uchi career from 1991 to 1998, being as high as komosubi. True, the average size of rikishi has increased since…

Another example, former Czech wrestler Takanoyama, was less successful back in 2012. He was able to stay in the top division during four tournaments, that year (and in September of 2011, too).

My prediction: Enho’s techniques will continue to work, in the middle of an injury prone field. After a san’yaku stint, he’ll end up safely in maegashira ranks.

9. Will Takakeisho win a second yusho in 2020 ?

I believe Takakeisho’s picture of 2018’s rising star needs an update. Last year, the ozeki was seen as the future of sumo and a possible future yokozuna, assuming he could adapt his variety of techniques. He finished that year on a bang, clinching his first yusho in Kyushu.

Ozeki Takakeisho Mitsunobu

Twelve months later, the picture has changed. His ozeki promotion had to wait until the last day of the March tournament, with decreasing results – 13-2, 11-4 and 10-5. He sustained a first serious injury on his knee, which hampered further steps, and even cost him the newly acquired rank. He went back strongly during the Aki basho, where he was defeated during a playoff, injuring himself on his chest in the process.

Will he bounce back in 2020 ? Can his knees sustain so much weight ?

I express doubts concerning the latter question, and would answer no.

Kyushu Day 5 Highlights

Daishomaru defeated Terutsuyoshi. This was a quick one. After a decent tachiai, Terutsuyoshi circled the larger Daishomaru and seemed to lose his ring presence as his left foot landed on the tawara. From there a modest shove from Daishomaru was all that was needed for the win. Oshidashi.

Kagayaki fusen win over Wakatakakage.

Takanosho defeated Daishoho. After the tachiai, Takanosho got in low under Daishoho’s attack, brushed his arm away while securing a morozashi, and drove forward…almost through the gyoji. Yorikiri.

Chiyotairyu defeated Nishikigi. This bout was all Chiyotairyu tsuppari. Nishikigi tried an early shoulder blast to no effect. Chiyotairyu responded with some wave action tsuppari and thrust Nishikigi off the dohyo. Tsukidashi.

Chiyomaru defeated Ishiura. Ishiura’s hit and shift on the tachiai was well snuffed out by the Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru did not over-commit to moving forward so when Ishiura moved to Chiyomaru’s right, Maru drove the Miyagino beya man over the bales, giving no room for Ishiura to get a belt grip or mount an offense. Oshidashi.

Kotoshogiku defeated Shodai. Shodai allowed Kotoshogiku to play his game from the outset. Giku was able to get inside and wrap up the tournament leader and drive forward through Shodai. Yorikiri. Giku didn’t even launch much of his jack-rabbit gabburi attack. With the loss utter capitulation, Shodai ended West’s streak of victories and fell off the top of the leaderboard and into the mix at 4-1 while Kotoshogiku picked up his first win.

Sadanoumi defeated Shimanoumi. Shimanoumi had a stronger tachiai, driving Sadanoumi back. However, Sadanoumi secures a solid left hand belt grip. While Shimanoumi launched his attack, Sadanoumi powered through with that belt grip and picked up his third win. Yorikiri.

Yutakayama defeated Shohozan. Shohozan tried to move around Yutakayama to get a right-hand grip of green mawashi. The mountain successfully defended, however, and firmly locked onto Shohozan’s right arm, spun him around and then thrust him out of the ring. Tsukidashi. Yutakayama joined Shodai with a share of the lead at 4-1.

Kotoeko defeated Tsurugisho. Kotoeko rose up straight to greet Tsurugisho’s tachiai, and received a hail of tsuppari as punishment for such a weak start. Kotoeko circled under the barrage and Tsurugisho surprisingly couldn’t keep up. He took a knee in the middle of the dohyo under what I thought was a rather light, instinctive deflection from the lavender mawashi. Hatakikomi.

Enho defeated Aoiyama. Enho shifted to his right at the tachiai, hiding on the dark side of Aoiyama. All I could see for a while was a load of Aoiyama haymakers raining down on something on the other side. Thankfully, Enho rotated slightly in time to see that one of Aoiyama’s thrusts nearly shoved Enho down but he recovered and with a subtle shift and pull of his own was able to pull Aoiyama off balance and onto all fours. Hikiotoshi. Enho now holds a share of the lead at 4-1 while Aoiyama picked up his second loss.

Onosho defeated Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki unleashed a torrent of blows to Onosho’s face, forcing his head up and back. He then pulled for a hatakikomi attempt but Onosho was all over it. He knew what was coming, locked on target with a tractor beam and helped Kotoyuki’s own momentum carry him off the playing surface. Oshidashi.

Tamawashi defeated Ryuden. I want to know what aroma therapy Ryuden has in that bright red towel. Hopefully he can change it to something more effective against oshi-zumo, though. Ryuden tried, rather meekly, to get a left-hand grip but Tamawashi’s battering kept him away. Ryuden attempted to launch his own oshi-attack but Tamawashi piled on the pressure, and shoved Ryuden over the bales and into the crowd. Overwhelmed. Oshidashi.

Asanoyama defeated Hokutofuji. Asanoyama quickly wrapped up Hokutofuji at the tachiai. Hokutofuji seemed to want to have a leaning contest but his positioning after the tachiai was nowhere near the middle of the ring. His right foot was nearly on the tawara. If he wanted to have some long, drawn out belt battle, he’d need to work himself back to the center of the ring. From this position, however, Asanoyama was not going to ease off his attack. So while Hokutofuji leaned, Asanoyama applied more pressure, and forced him out. Yorikiri.

Abi defeated Endo. This was Abi’s match from the outset but his over exuberance nearly cost him. He wasn’t down for any of Endo’s head games and stare down, forcing the pair to reset. At the tachiai, he started battering Endo, whose half-hearted attempt to grab the mawashi was met with a hail of slaps. As Endo backed out, Abi stepped forward and nearly over the bales himself.

Daieisho fusen win over Tochinoshin. With Tochinoshin’s ozeki rank lost, there’s already talk of retirement but that’s premature. If he can take this break to recover, there’s no reason for retirement. Yes, he’s lost his ozeki rank but he likely has quite a while he could be effective as sekitori.

Okinoumi defeated Mitakeumi. Okinoumi pressured Mitakeumi after the tachiai with a vicious thrust to the face. Mitakeumi was forced back but worked his right arm around Okinoumi’s neck and into a headlock. He used the headlock to twist and try to throw Okinoumi but Okinoumi’s balance was superior. With the headlock attack, this kept Mitakeumi’s body positioned high. From Okinoumi’s lower center of gravity he was able to then effectively carry Mitakeumi across the ring and out, over the threshold. Yorikiri. Both men are 2-3.

Meisei defeated Takayasu. Meisei weathered everything Takayasu threw at him. Time and time again, Takayasu’s tsuppari would force Meisei to the edge but the Ozeki could never finish him off. Meisei would slip inside and back to the center of the ring, forcing the Ozeki to launch a new attack. Takayasu even tried a shoulder blast but that ended awkwardly with Takayasu’s back to Meisei. Takayasu then started a new attack and this time Meisei grabbed his left arm, putting his shoulder into a weird position and changing his direction, suddenly. This forced Takayasu to lose his balance, landing in a heap on the tawara. Kainahineri. Meisei joins the leadership pack at 4-1 while Takayasu falls to a disappointing 2-3.

Takarafuji defeated Takakeisho. Takakeisho was about to start some wave action but Slippin’ Jimmy slipped to the side and the T-Rex toppled over. Tsukiotoshi.

Hakuho defeated Myogiryu. Hakuho greeted Myogiryu with a quick shoulder blast and as he tried to tuck his left hand under for a belt grip, Myogiryu slapped his hand and backed away, retreating to the bales. As Hakuho pursued, Myogiryu lost his balance. Tsukiotoshi. Hakuho is back where he belongs, atop the group of leaders at 4-1.

Our thoughts go out to all those in Hong Kong and Chile. Stay safe.

Aki 2019 Jungyo report – Day 9

Today’s event was supposed to have been day 10, but of the three events in Shizuoka prefecture, the one at Izu – which was the place where the typhoon made its landfall – has been cancelled. Around noon October 13th, the rikishi finally left Yamanashi prefecture and headed around Mt. Fuji, down to Shizuoka, in big buses. There have been no safety issues for the rikishi and their support staff from the weather.

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Aki 2019 Jungyo report – Day 7

From Chiba, we head west to Kanagawa prefecture. Since these Jungyo reports are actually posted a couple of days after the event, we now know that Typhoon #19 has been through many of the areas the Jungyo was planned in. You’ll see a happy town of Sagamihara today, but two days later, it will be disaster area. Post-typhoon events are likely to be accompanied by rounds to comfort the survivors. But today we’ll concentrate on the happy side.

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