Tochinoshin’s rise to the first division has been blistering, needing just two years to move from maezumo to makuuchi. Tochinoshin has always been an impressive yotsu wrestler ; focusing on the opponent’s mawashi has proved to be an efficient technique for him. Despite indifferent performances through the years, he managed to finish runner-up on two occasions, in November of 2009 and May of 2011.
Unfortunately, he suffered an anterior cruciate ligement injury in 2013, which saw him falling back to makushita. Appropriate treatment saw him, however, climb back, getting back to back juryo championships to regain a solid status in makuuchi.
After more years spent in makuuchi (with one initial sekiwake appearance in Nagoya 2016), Tochinoshin’s strengh seemingly improved and became the surprise winner of the January 2018 basho – the first being won by a maegashira since Kyokutenho in 2012, and Kotomitsuki back in 2001.
That unexepected win proved to be no fluke however, as, despite being physically diminished, he produced a solid 10-5 in March of 2018, and sealed his ozeki promotion with an impressive 13-2 in May, defeating Hakuho for the first time in the process.
Tochinoshin could unfortunately no replicate such performances from here, his knees continuing to trouble him. Nevertheless, collecting twenty two more wins by the end of 2018 meant no one matched the Georgian’s total of 59 wins.
What happened next ?
Sadly, Tochinoshin could not produce sufficient results, as recurring injuries severely impeded his style of wrestling. He was demoted a first time from his ozeki rank after two losing records, but managed to regain his rank with the minimum of ten wins required in May of 2019. Three more losing records meant he got demoted a second time and could not claim his rank back.Hopefully for him, his health will give him some respite so that we can see again the fearful, combattive Tochinoshin who illuminated the first part of the sumo year 2018.
We’ll close our review with the rikishi whose 55 wins in 2019 could not be matched : Asanoyama.
In our first episode we looked at Hakuho’s extended winning era, which started back in 2007 and ceased – in terms of most wins during a calendar year, at least – in 2016. Let’s look at the first rikishi to end Hakuho’s incredible run : Kisenosato.
Kisenosato Yutaka – 2016
The road to the top
Kisensosato’s rise from the bottom of the banzuke to the upper division has been as impressive as Hakuho’s, needing just fifteen tournaments to reach makuuchi. His rise from here, however, became quite slower. Spending several years from upper maegashira to komosubi, Kisenosato finally trusted a sekiwake slot in March 2009, five years after his makuuchi debut. After two final maegashira appearances, he finally brought his career upwards, and after good performances during the year 2011, was promoted to ozeki at the beginning of 2012. Being considered as one of the greatest Japanese hopes, Kisenosato’s crowning had then been awaited.
Kisenosato finished runner up in thirteen tournaments and missed several opportunities to clinch the first yusho of this career and/or yokozuna promotion.
He was tied for first before the last day of the May tournament of 2012, alongside Tochiozan and Kyokutenho, and lost to former ozeki Baruto, despite pushing him to the tawara after a great start. He would have been the huge favorite to win the ensuing playoff.
Kisenosato won his first thirteen matches in May of next year, and saw his lead shared by Hakuho. They faced each other on the decisive bout of the tournament, on day 14. I recommend everyone to watch the bout as well as its make up; the atmosphere was tense as the whole crowd waited for Kisenosato to finally find his way to the top. The fight was mightily contested, and Hakuho, despite slipping from the dohyo, managed to throw his rival to the ground shortly before falling himself. Another great chance was gone, and, for once, the ozeki’s mental frailties were not in cause.
Indeed, three consecutive runner-up performances thereafter, Kisenosato was told he would be promoted to yokozuna by winning the yusho with at least thirteen bouts. However, pressure war perhaps too much to his shoulders as he even failed to get his kachi koshi. Quite symptomatic of his troubles was his fifth bout against Aoiyama, where he tried to intimidate the Bulgarian wrestler at the tachi-ai, before ending pushed to the crowd seconds after.
The story was not too different in 2016, the year he collected more wins than any other rival. Indeed, Kisenosato was told again he would earn yokozuna promotion, on three separate occasion, but fell short each time. His sumo was solid in Kyushu, being the only wrestler to defeat eventual winner Kakuryu and ending up 12-3. The three rikishis to defeat him ? Maegashira Endo, Shodai and Tochinoshin.
Nevertheless, consistent performances enabled him to earn an impressive total of 69 victories in 2016. Nobody matched that record.
Quite paradoxically, 2016 must have been quite hard to swallow for Kisenosato. Before all his efforts, he had to watch fellow ozeki Kotoshogiku and Goeido clinch a yusho themselves, in January and September.
What happened next ?
The rest of his career is already part of the legend. Kisenosato finally managed to chase his old ghosts the tournament after, in January of 2017, defeating Hakuho in the process an ending up the undisputed winner with a 14-1 record. He was promoted to yokozuna after the tournament.
His debut as a shin-yokozuna was dream-like, as he managed to grab twelwe straight wins, much to the fans delight. But the honeymoon abruptly came to an end the day after, as Kisenosato tore his pectoral muscle at the tachi-ai, during his bout against Harumafuji. Kisenosato was brought outside the dohyo limit without putting any resistance against Kakuryu the day after, but benefited from Terunofuji’s own injuries to still notch a debut yusho as a yokozuna.
Sadly, his pectoral muscle turned out to be an career ending injury. Irony was very much presentt, as Kisenosato never missed a single bout until then. He sat out partly or entirely during each scheduled honbasho until his retirement, with the exception of the Aki basho of 2018, when he managed to produce a honourable 10-5 result.
Kisenosato announced his retirement after failling to compete properly at the January tournament of 2019.
Hakuho won the most bouts in 2017. We won’t stress out Hakuho’s achievements once again; instead, we’ll move to another wrestler who illuminated the 2018 sumo year : Tochinoshin.
Sumo’s last honbasho of the year 2019 came to an end, and dai-yokozuna Hakuho sealed a record extending 43th Emperor’s Cup, thanks to a rock-solid 14-1 performance. However, Hakuho’s absences thorough the year means another rikishi won the most matches during the current year – namely Asanoyama.
Asanoyama top the 2019 calendar year might look surprising at first sight;
however, a string of great performances meant Asanoyama’s recent success was no
fluke. In any case, it gives us the opportunity of a quick review of the past
winners of that symbolic award.
Hakuho Sho – 2007 to 2015 ; 2017
The road to the top
to say something that has not already been said about the GOAT. A few figures
may well show how meteoric his rise to the top has been :
entered maezumo in March 2001, and entered Makuuchi in May 2004.
– It took
him just four tournaments to enter san’yaku by the year 2005, after impressive
12-3, 11-4, 8-7 and 12-3 records.
became an ozeki in May 2006, and his ozeki results were: 14-1, 13-2, 8-7,
kyujo, 10-5, 13-2, 15-0. Woah.
Hakuho won most bouts during a calendar year from year 2007, as Asashoryu was still the other active yokozuna, exchanging fabulous bouts in the process.
However, the new yokozuna benefited from Asashoryu’s issues (he was suspended during the two last honbashos of 2007) and injuries (missing all or part of the three last bashos in 2008), during his late career. Still, Hakuho had to surrender three bashos during that period to his great rival.
wrestled free of absences during the whole year 2009, but his presence did not
stop Hakuho from collecting stratospheric numbers, with 14-1, 15-0, 14-1, 14-1,
14-1 and 15-0 records.
retirement in 2010, Hakuho entered a period of utter dominance, notching 86
wins out of 90 in 2009 and 2010. He collected « only » 66 wins in
2011, but let’s not forget that the March tournament had been cancelled.
continued his dominance during the next years; however, numbers tend to be a
bit deceptive as the dai-yokozuna saw the emergence of other rivals.
piled up 76 wins out of the 90 possible in 2012, which is quite impressive.
However, Hakuho’s dominance wasn’t absolute. Below his best, he secured just
ten wins in May, and had to surrender the Cup twice to Harumafuji, who became
that year a yokozuna alongside the great man.
another great year for him with a mouth-watering 82 wins. But it’s worth
mentionning another great rival’s performances: then ozeki Kisenosato finished
the four last bashos of the year as runner-up. He came mightily close from
beating the dai-yokozuna on day 14 of the May tournament, which would probably
have cemented a first yusho for one of Hakuho’s sternest challengers.
numbers remained excellent in 2014, even if that year saw fellow Mongolian
Kakuryu’s rise to yokozuna. The dai-yokozuna piled up 81 wins. That year was
the last to see him get more than 70 victories during a single year.
again the most bouts in 2015 (66), but had to pull out of the Aki basho, which
saw Kakuryu clinch his first yusho as a yokozuna. His dominance has been
strongly contested by the Isegahama pair, composed by Harumafuji (who won the
Kyushu basho, and helped Terunofuji clinch the May basho) and Terunofuji (with
Harumafuji’s mirror achievements).
issues meant we saw a rikishi other than Hakuho winning the most bout during
2016, namely Kisenosato.
returned to the top of that chart in 2017, albeit by a mere 56 victories, the
lowest he ever got while achieving that feat. Still not at his best, he paved
way for Kisenosato, who won the first two bashos of the year. The rest of the
year was more successful, winning in March, May and November (after seeing
Harumafuji retiring from his duties).
injuries limited Hakuho’s further appearances. He set up the Olympics in 2020
as his main target, and there’s speculation whether he’ll retire after.
However, his weakened body nevertheless put its fingers on the Emperor’s Cup in
Aki 2018, March and Kyushu 2019, and proved everyone that the greatest rikishi
of all time is still very much present.
We’ll focus next time on the winner of the most bout during the year 2016 : Kisenosato.