Ones To Watch – Nagoya Day 4

With Day 4 about to begin, the rest of our “Ones to Watch” will be on the dohyo for their second match. During day 3 action, Wakaichiro went down to defeat after taking a bad step during his match and launching himself from the dohyo. He came out very strong at the tachiai, and frankly looked like he was doing some damage to Kamitani before that stumble took him down. Amakaze picked up his second win, Hoshoryu lost to former Makuuchi rikishi Seiro, while Roga and Musashikuni both picked up their first wins.

Naya vs Fujiazuma – Both are looking for their first win. Fujiazuma is a former Juryo mainstay, so this will be a hard match for Naya. Neither of these rikishi are really in promotion range this basho, unless the top ranks all go down to make-koshi.

Wakamotoharu vs Akua – Again Akua is in a Ones to Watch head to head match. Both rikishi are 1-0, so the winner will join the leader group. These two actually have some history together, with Wakamotoharu holding a slight 3-2 edge.

Midorifuji vs Asabenkei – Midorifuji won their only prior match, but it’s just the one match, though it was just at Natsu. Speed will likely be the order of the day.

Terunofuji vs Onojo – Former Ozeki continues his march to return to the salaried ranks, though he is now at the bottom end of Makushita with a long road ahead. His sumo still seems off, mostly due to mobility issues from his unrepairable knees.

Shoji vs Tsugaruumi – Another 1-0 bracket match, Shoji is up against long serving Sandanme mainstay Tsugaruumi, who has suffered several absenceses in his 45 tournament sumo career.

Kitanowaka vs Chiyooga – After dominating Jonikuchi, Kitanowaka finds himself in mid Jonidan, and facing relative newcomer Chiyooga on day 4 for his second match. I think Kitanowaka may still be a bit under ranked at Jonidan 46, but lets see if anyone can slow him down.

Ones To Watch – Nagoya Day 1

Welcome back to our feature where we dig into some of the action further down the banzuke; in the divisions below Juryo. It’s a combination of hard-charging young up-and-comers battling against fading stars and mainstay rikishi returning from injury. The action here is frequently hit or miss, but as we love to say about the upper Makushita, these rikishi are almost to the salaried ranks, and the battles here are sometimes more action packed than most of the televised matches for that day.

Day 1 action is light for our roster that we are watching, with most of the heavy action apparently slated for day 2. But lets go over who is on the dohyo to start the tournament in the sweat box that is Nagoya.

Wakamotoharu vs Fujiazuma – After a single basho as a sekitori, Onami brother Wakamotoharu could do no better than a 3-4 make koshi in May, and finds himself at Makushita 5, well back in the pack and possibly out of range to bid for promotion in any real sense. He faces former Maegashira 4 Fujiazuma, who at 32 years is finding his body struggling to support his sumo.

Midorifuji vs Hokutokawa – Midorifuji is not on a meteoric rise up the banzuke, but it’s notable that he has racked up 4 consecutive kachi-koshi since Aki 2018. This approach has put him at Makushita 11, his highest ever rank. His opponent, Hokutokawa, sat out Osaka with injuries, but came roaring back, and is likewise fighting at his highest ever rank.

Wakatakamoto vs Inoue – Further down the torikumi, we find another Onami brother. Wakatakamoto is looking to bounce back after a 2-5 make koshi in May, and fight his way to the higher spots in the division. He faces 19 year old Inoue, who is at his highest ever rank, and has been kachi-koshi in the last 3 tournaments.

Shoji vs Genbumaru – Shoji is one good tournament away from breaking back into Makushita, and possibly bypassing Musashigawa’s flagging scion Musashikuni. Genbumaru, his opponent, is fighting near his highest ever rank.

Amakaze vs Kototora – Former Juryo mainstay Amakaze has produced 6-1 and 5-2 records since his return from a 8 month kyujo. He has also become a bit of an internet star for videos showing him enthusiastically eating all manner of goodies. I expect him to have little trouble with Kototora, as I think Amakaze is under-ranking right now.

Kitanowaka vs Ota – Kitanowaka was very impressive in his first basho, resulting in a 6-1 record and a solid move into Jonidan. He faces a long serving veteran in Ota, who has been ranked as high as Makushita. I expect Ota will faithfully undertake the tempering of young Kitanowaka, who is fresh from the wide open play-yard of Jonikuchi.

Nagoya Storyline #3 – The Makushita Joi-Jin

Some readers are wondering – what is a “Joi-Jin”? In general, it’s the top 10 or so ranks of any lower division, and in the case of Makushita for Nagoya, it’s jam-packed with some rather potent rikishi. Some of them are veterans pushing hard to return to sekitori status, others are up and coming youngsters fighting their way up the banzuke. As we have said before on Tachiai, the top end of Makushita, especially during week 2, is where some of the most flat out, 110% sumo takes place. We expect Nagoya, given who is in the joi for Makushita, to be especially frantic.

It’s important to note that unlike the top 2 divisions, matches go by pairing rikishi who have the same record for all 7 of their matches. So after the first match, all of the 1-0 will fight other 1-0, and all of the 0-1 rikishi will pair off with other 0-1 fighters. This narrows down the 100-200 strong divisions into a workable yusho elimination bracket by match 6 or so in most cases. Because of the vigorous competition in the Makushita joi, many of its members count themselves blessed if they can simply exit the basho with kachi-koshi (4 wins). Lets take a look at who is in the joi this time.

EastRankWest
SeiroMs1Irodori
DaiseidoMs2Hoshoryu
TamakiMs3Churanoumi
ChiyootoriMs4Kaisho
FujiazumaMs5Wakamotoharu
ChiyonokuniMs6Naya
AkuaMs7Tsukahara
KototebakariMs8Nishikifuji
BushozanMs9Chiyosakae
HakuyozanMs10Nogami

There are quite a few notables here

Seiro – Long time Juryo mainstay Seiro finds himself the top man in Makushita after a 7-8 make-koshi at Juryo 14. A simply 4 wins will put him back in a kesho-mawashi for September.
Irodori – A 6-9 in his Juryo debut in May put him back in Makushita, like Seiro, he needs both a kachi-koshi and some poor performance at the bottom of the Juryo banzuke to return.
Daiseido – After finishing 3-12 at Osaka, he dripped out of Juryo far enough down into Makushita that 5-2 finish at Natsu could take him no higher than Makushita 2.
Hoshoryu – Some readers get frustrated when we mention this, but this fellow is in fact former Yokozuna Asashoryu’s nephew. He has been plugging away with excellent speed / agility sumo, and he’s on the cusp now of a promotable rank. This guy, if he can stay healthy, is likely a future star.
Churanoumi – Former Nihon University athlete, he’s won 3 yusho (including a 7-0 Makushita yusho in Osaka) and already been in Juryo twice.
Chiyootori – Long-serving Maegashira, he has been plagued by injuries and is now fighting to try to return to the salaried ranks. At one point in 2018, he was ranked in Sandanme, but has been fighting back.
Wakamotoharu – After a Makushita yusho in January, and a 5-10 debut as a sekitori in Osaka, this Onami brother is outside the range to likely be promoted with a simple kachi-koshi, he’s going to have to run up the score.
Chiyonokuni – Did you wonder where Makuuchi mainstay Chiyonokuni ended up after he brutally injured his knee? Right here, in the briar patch. A healthy Chiyonokuni can take these guys to the cleaners, but I am going to guess he is lucky to be at 75%. It could get ugly.
Naya – Another young, up and coming rikishi from a sumo family, he has been on a slower upward trajectory than his rival Hoshoryu, but his sumo is coming to gether very well. He’s not at a promotable rank unless something crazy happens, but his last 2 tournaments featured 6-1 records.
Akua – I have to admit, I really like Akua’s sumo. I want to see him march ahead on the banzuke, but his accumulated injuries seem to have capped his performance.
Kototebakari – Another young man on a rocket ride up the banzuke, this 19 year old rikishi from Chiba has only had one make-koshi in his professional sumo career.

As you can see, even looking into a handful of these rikishi, there is a lot of talent, and a lot of drive to win. It’s going to be tough staying up to watch the top Makushita matchs, but I suspect for Nagoya, there may be a lot of great sumo action to follow from this group.

Lower divisions – Days 11 and 12

Hoshoryu avoided a make-koshi on his birthday

Today I’m trying to catch up on two days of lower division action. Let’s start with day 11, May 22.

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