Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 3

Meet Hokutenkai, Takanoiwa’s nephew

I’d like to start today with some maezumo. Nine wrestlers are participating in maezumo this basho. Of them, five are formerly ranked rikishi who are coming back from banzuke-gai status, which is where you get if you don’t show up to any match while ranked in Jonokuchi. The other four are new ones – three who passed the new recruit health checkup prior to this basho, and one who passed it in the previous basho, but had to wait for his visa to be approved.

This latter one is Takanoiwa’s nephew, Sukhbat, who graduated from the famous Saitama Sakae high school, and really should have belonged to the Hoshoryu/Naya generation. However, he was looking for a heya at the height of the Harumafuji scandal, in 2018, and the well-oiled Mongolian placement machine was not willing to work for him. That is, until Harumafuji and Takanoiwa reconciled. You can read all about him finding his way into the sumo world in our coverage of Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki.

He now has a new shikona – Hokutenkai, “Heavenly Sea Of the North” – which is a variation on the name of a former Ozeki that he looked up to: Hokutenyu. It is a bit surprising that a young Mongolian rikishi would look up to an Ozeki who was active in the ’80s, but there you go.

After all this time, the man was starved for the dohyo. And you can see that very well in today’s maezumo bout.

Another interesting figure in maezumo is Hakuho’s latest recruit, Hasegawa. Half Japanese, half Mongolian, he grew up in Japan, but then moved to Ulaanbaatar, where he attended a Japanese school and played basketball.

Senho – the latest in Hakuho’s growing list of uchi-deshi

This 16 years old, unlike Hakuho’s other recruits, doesn’t have much of a sumo experience. He did not belong to any sumo dojo as a kid, but he did participate in a major competition during his primary school days, where he drew the attention of one of Hakuho’s contacts, who tipped the Yokozuna. Tall, lanky, 16 year-old with a background more in basketball than in sumo. Hmm… whom does that remind you of?

That lack of experience did show in his maezumo bout.

The other two new faces in maezumo are Hisasue, who joins Kokonoe beya, and the gigantic Konno, who joins the fast-growing Naruto beya.

Here is a video showing first the preparations of all the participants, and then the bouts themselves, starting with Senho (left) vs. Bariki (right), then Hisasue (left) vs Konno (right), then finally, poor Urutora from Shikihide beya (left) vs. Hokutenkai (right):

Senho (meaning “A thousand pengs”, or “A thousand Phoenixes”) seems to have spent a little bit too much time around Ishiura. Yeah, I know, no sumo experience, shouldn’t expect much at this stage. Hokutenkai, on the other hand, is starved for sumo, full of self-confidence, and I wouldn’t want to be standing on the dohyo opposite him right now.

Jonokuchi

Resuming our regular programming, the sky almost fell today. Take a look at what happened in the Hattorizakura (right) vs. Yamamoto (left) bout:

A monoii. An actual monoii. And Hattorizakura seemed to be able to carry a bout of sumo against somebody twice his size. Wait, what was that shadow passing my window? Oh, a flying pig.

Jonidan

Continuing the adventure of the closely-shorn Roman from Tatsunami beya, here we have him vs. Kotokogyoku (let’s see you pronounce that three times in a row). Sadogatake man on the left, crew-cut Roman on the right:

Whoa. “Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou”, I said, “art sure no craven”. At this rate Roman is a serious contender for the Jonidan yusho. I wonder how odd it will look to TV viewers if he does. BTW, Roman is not the only shorn rikishi in Tatsunami beya. There is another one, Yukiamami, who was also absent through Natsu, and is now back in Jonokuchi. Twitter is full of question marks about these two.

Sandanme

We continue to watch Amakaze on his trail back to fame and his beloved kesho-mawashi. Today he faces Baraki (left) who is one of Shikihide beya’s top ranking men, and famous for a stint in Shokkiri.

Amakaze nearly flattens the homunculus.

Next up is American-born Musashikuni (left) facing Kaizen from Asakayama beya (right).

Sorry it’s just a half-video. In any case, Kuni recovers from his initial loss, and is now 1:1.

A bit late, but I got Wakaichiro! So here he is. Kamitani from Michinoku beya attacks from the left, Wakaichiro from the right:

Frustrating misstep there for the young Texan. We hope he will bounce back. At least he is genki enough to lightly jump back up the dohyo. He is now 1:1.

Makushita

We continue to follow Genki, the Former Turtle, here on the left, facing Kaito from Asakayama beya (right). They start this match with 1-0 each.

This time Genki is not as overwhelming as he was on day 1. He is now 1-1.

Aoi, who almost had an arm torn off by former kaiju Terunofuji yesterday, faced a slightly less fearful rival today – the Tokitsukaze Mongolian, Yoshoyama. Aoi on the left, Yoshoyama on the right:

Yoshoyama recovers from his first defeat for a 1-1, while Aoi probably curses his luck for having faced him with two consecutive Mongolians.

Recovering Hakuyozan (left) faces Nogami from Oguruma (right) for what should have been a relatively easy match for the more experienced recovering former sekitori.

However, it is Nogami who prevails, and you can see the frustration on Hakuyozan’s face, as he is now 1-1, and at Ms10, this one loss may well have blocked him from a quick return to his sekitori status.

Eldest Onami brother Wakatakamoto faced Terao from Shikoroyama beya today. Waka on the left, Terao The Third on the right:

This is one of those uncontrolled spirals of death kind of pushes, where the pusher cannot stop himself and just hopes he will fall after his rival is out. Terao doesn’t have the presence of mind to sidestep, and so Wakatakamoto is now 2-0.

Next, what is going on with our favorite Russian/Mongolian wolf, Roga? Can he recover from that initial blow? Here on the right, he faces Fujita, of Shikoroyama beya, on the left.

Yes, much better, Roga. Yorikiri. And that length of hair should put him in a chon-mage already.

Finally, we have our highlight bout, in which Hoshoryu gets to meet Seiro, a Mongolian with real sekitori experience and even a couple of visits to Makuuchi. Hoshoryu on the far side, Seiro with his backside to us:

Seiro doesn’t allow Hoshoryu to fully engage with him, using a technique similar to Ryuden’s to keep him away. Eventually Hoshoryu loses his footing, and looks pretty sour. It’s 1-1 to the famous nephew, and he can only afford one additional loss if he wants to be a sekitori by Aki.

Bouts From The Lower Divisions, Day 1

Hello Tachiai readers. Hohisashiburi! Today, not many of the big names of the lower divisions were in play – there’s going to be a big burst of them tomorrow – but still, I collected several bouts for you, including three loose themes:

Homarefuji and Hakuyozan – image of Jungyo past – fall into the third category
  • Bruce’s “Ones To Watch”
  • Hakuho’s Uchi-deshi
  • Wrestlers of past glory trying to work their way back
Continue reading

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.