Bouts from the lower divisions: Match Day 1

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.

Jonokuchi:

I figure I’ll start here with the rookies, Mudoho, Nihonyanagi, and Dewanoryu.

Mudoho, grandson of the legendary Yokozuna Taiho, kicked off the tournament under his own shikona, drawn from the characters used by his Grampa. The Kyokai started the whole tournament early Sunday morning with this decisive win over Iwata from Naruto beya, who is returning from kyujo and his second round of maezumo. You can find more of his backstory and Herouth’s coverage of his maezumo debut here and introductions for our Jonokuchi debutants.

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.

Jonidan:

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.

Sandanme:

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.

Makushita:

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.

Kyushu Jonokuchi

Transport Back to December 1993

Rewind time to mid-December 1993. I sat in my home absolutely enthralled to MTV’s Unplugged as Nirvana played a brilliant concert, mostly of songs I’d never heard before. While several of the more obscure have stuck with me over the intervening decades, one in particular pops into my head whenever I think about a fruitless quest: their cover of the Meat Puppets’ “Plateau”.

*I know the video is not Plateau, I couldn’t find it on Nirvana’s official Youtube site, so enjoy another great video instead.

Many hands began to scan around for the next plateau

Some said it was Greenland and some say Mexico.

Others decided it was nowhere except for where they stood

Those were all just guesses, wouldn’t help you if they could.

– Meat Puppets

As the sanyaku-ranked wrestlers falter, the perpetually injured yokozeki face demotion and retirement, current sekitori will take their place. How many more yusho does Hakuho have left in the tank? Is this the last one? If so, where is the next Hakuho? Is there a future Dai-Yokozuna in the sumo ranks right now? While the Meat Puppets spoke to the futility of knowing the future, it’s still fun to try.

Let’s start our search with the lessons of the past. In May 2001 Takanohana won his ultimate yusho. A young Hakuho made his banzuke debut at that very tournament, ranked Jonokuchi 16 East. He finished with a very inauspicious 3-4. The makekoshi record meant he would remain in Jonokuchi in Nagoya, a tournament won by the Great Kaio with Takanohana kyujo and Dejima falling to Sekiwake. Dejima would remain in makuuchi for another eight years…though aided by a favorable injury policy…a path that should give hope to fans of Takayasu and Tochinoshin. Also note that a young Asashoryu was Komusubi.

As we cast around for the next Plateau, is our next Hakuho (someone who can compete for GOAT honors) in Jonokuchi right now? As much as I’d like to say differently, especially as he hails from my favorite place, it’s very unlikely that it will be Jonokuchi yusho-winner, Tosamidori. His injury-plagued young career is not going to last the rigors of higher ranks. (I want to be wrong. I really want to be wrong and hopefully we’ve got another Tochinoshin here.) I’m eager to see him rise into Sandanme and hopefully further.

Sailing in Shimantogawa, Kochi

Among the other 58 wrestlers in Jonokuchi, we have the young Senho, a protege of Hakuho. Herouth has been documenting the start of his career in her amazing series of Lower Division posts. When I started to look at this division early in the tournament, I made a few assumptions which by the end of the tournament did not hold true. I thought the winner would come from Senho-like group of lower to middling BMI (body mass index) wrestlers. I thought those who debuted this year would far outperform those who have been in the division for several years.

One thing is clear, wrestlers with BMI at the extremes did not perform well. Hattorizakura and Houn sit at the comparatively low-BMI pole (around 21) while Yamamoto, Reon, Kirimaru and Daigonishiki form the high end, between 44-60. None secured more than two wins in Jonokuchi. Being in the middle range does not mean a wrestler is destined to succeed, obviously, as Sawaisamu and Nishikio fall in the same range as the three play-off contenders.

Those playoff contenders, Otsuji, Yutakanami, and Tosamidori, all came from the average BMI range, 35-41. But of the 24 in that range, only about half secured a winning record. We know BMI isn’t everything and does not seem to be a reliable predictor by itself, but it is a factor.

Hakuho is a tall man. At 193cm, he can stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone he faces. Perhaps the next Dai-Yokozuna must be tall? Of the nine tallest rikishi in the division, Senho, Chida, and Satsumao were the most successful with five wins. A third of these wrestlers were kyujo, Yamamotozakura, Kototsukahara, and Toyama. (Kototsukahara did compete once, securing one win.)

Since Senho was the least massive of this cohort, he likely has the most capacity for “bulking up” before it hurts his sumo. He is also the youngest and had his debut this year while several others have been. Senho is not as tall as Hakuho.

Jonokuchi Records by Stable

The heya with the most wins and losses in Jonokuchi was Shikihide. Remember, Hattorizakura counts as seven losses. Yamamotozakura and Reon are hidden here since they were both listed as kyujo for the tournament. Further, Satozakura is an interesting story in that he competed six times this tournament, not seven. He was kyujo on the first day, his only loss being this fusen, with one more absence. He ended up competing once the first week but won every bout on the dohyo. Did Shikihide find the next one?

Jonokuchi Report: Match Day 2

Aki is a firecracker. The sumodb statistics list him as 165cm and 68kg. For us Imperialists, that translates to 5′ 5″, the minimum height required to be a sumo wrestler, and 150 lbs. That’s about two inches shorter than Enho and ~60 pounds lighter. His opponent tonight was Higohikari whom, at 173cm and 119kg, fits near the average height and weight for the division. He’s a lifer, with a 2003 debut at the tender age of 15. Aki, on the other hand, is a youngster from Ibaraki who started his career in the summer of last year at 16. He was quick off the line with a solid tachiai, and then a final blast near the tawara.

Andy Walks Along Kochi’s Shimantogawa

After match day two Tosamidori, from beautiful, verdant Kochi prefecture, is the largest and oldest of the undefeated as the winners’ bracket has shifted quite early in this tournament to the young and relatively compact.

Of the heaviest 22 wrestlers in the division, comprising the rightmost six of the twelve bins in the weight histogram below, only four remain undefeated. Tosamidori is the only one in the top 10.

Senho won his second match, as did Akinishiki, Sawada, and Numano. I wonder if Numano is a Seinfeld fan? I updated the colors in the chart to make more sense. Green is good, this time, 2 wins and 0 losses. They’re clustered firmly on the right side of the graph with Chida being the tallest undefeated wrestler, followed by Sekizukayama and Senho.

Jonokuchi Report, Match Day 1

Jonokuchi is the lowest division in sumo. Unless you are successful at the amateur or college level, thereby earning a privileged debut in Sandanme or Makushita, you begin your career here after a short maezumo assessment. For most, especially for those who become sekitori, Jonokuchi is an introductory tournament or two, while the real education begins in Jonidan and Sandanme. It’s the first time you see your name in lights (well, ink) on the banzuke. And it’s also the first time to see whether you can last a tournament, seven bouts over a fortnight.

Sawaisamu Career chart

Many cannot last long and fall off the banzuke and leave the sport (and the heya life) fairly quickly. Some linger in the division for years, like Hattorizakura, or jump back and forth between Jonokuchi and Jonidan like Sawaisamu. Ultimately, in the search for the next one, the search must start in this division where Hakuho, Kakuryu, Kisenosato, and Harumafuji all began their careers. As we close out 2019, let’s take a look at who is in Jonokuchi.

Jonokuchi Height Distribution

This November, there are fifty-nine wrestlers in the division. Seven did not compete in the first two days, kyujo. Of those who did compete, one, Moriurara, actually started his tournament with a visit to Jonidan. There’s a wide range in ages, heights, and weights, though there’s definitely a cluster of young and relatively thin wrestlers.

Jonokuchi Weight Distribution

The tallest, Okuniashi, is 188 cm while two wrestlers tied for shortest at 165 cm (both won their first bout). The largest wrestler is Daigonishiki, 188kg while the slightest was Nangu at 67kg. Nangu had a really nice uwatenage on Day 1. Using body-mass index, Hattorizakura has the lowest BMI at 21.6, dwarfed by Daigonishiki’s 60.72.

BMI by Hatsubasho and by Age:
Red means Win, Green means Loss

Now that the First match-day is over for these chaps, we get an interesting look at how the cluster of young upstarts had quite a bit of success at the expense of larger, older wrestlers. Senho, one of Hakuho’s protégés whom Herouth has been following since his debut, is one of the red marks on the far right. He just started this year. Though he is tall, his BMI of 28.34 puts him well below that trend line. He has time to bulk up and “skill up.” Hanakaze is at the extreme left end of this scale, as he’s nearly fifty years old, started his sumo career in 1986…but he still picked up a win. If his love for sumo holds up, he should be able to bounce back into Jonidan.