The First Eleven Men of Makushita

Enho-Takayasu
… When you can see over the top of the mountain

Instead of a traditional “Ones to Watch” section this basho, we’ll mix things up with a few lower division storylines. We’ll start by taking a look at what’s going on at the top of Makushita.

This division is an absolute slog. There are 120 men in this division fighting for usually 2 to 4 of the 28 slots in Juryo. As described on a recent NHK World sumo preview, the division between Makushita and Juryo is like “heaven and hell,” given the resources and opportunities provided to rikishi once they reach the professional, sekitori level.

If you’re a college rikishi of good pedigree, usually you will cruise through the bottom 2-3 tiers before meeting your tougher matches here. Rikishi who have left school before college often take several years to reach the level as they get acclimated to the sport and the lifestyle. One of the reasons it’s tough to escape the level is because there’s a crush at the top – but Nagoya 2018 is unique. With respect to Natsu whipping boy Amakaze, usually there are a couple rikishi around the top of the division who have departed Juryo due to injury or performance, not soon to return back, and these guys get beat up by the hot young up-and-comers on the upswing of their career.

This time, however, there’s no filler at the top of the division and it’s going to be an all out melee to reach the professional ranks when sumo returns to Tokyo for the Aki tournament in September. Let’s look at who’s jockeying for position:

The Battle Scarred Veterans

I’m going to put 29 year olds Jokoryu (Ms5E) and Asabenkei (Ms4E) in this category, though their careers have taken different routes to the same location. The former Komusubi Jokoryu spent 4 years as sekitori before dropping down the divisions due to serious injury. He’s been stuck in the wilderness for 2 years, but has fought his way back up to striking distance of promotion. Asabenkei, who has been in sumo since 2007, recently made it back to Juryo after an 18 month hiatus. He then suffered a humiliating 3-win tournament in May, which started 0-7, en route to an immediate demotion back to the third tier.

While these guys have a wildly different pedigree and career accomplishments, it’s probably fair to say they have been operating on a similar talent level and with an ambition to scrape back up and re-establish themselves as professionals.

The Hot Shots

Enho (Ms2W) – the first man to open his career 21-0 since Jokoryu – arrived on the scene earlier than predicted in Osaka, but it was clear he was over-promoted before his time and was swiftly demoted back to Makushita. It’s good news for him that he has such an esteemed some-time sparring partner in Hakuho, however, and the hard work he’s put in has seen him rebound after a solid Natsu to the fourth position on the banzuke. We’ve been hot on Enho so long it’s hard to believe it’s still only his 8th tournament. 5 wins should see him back up.

Meanwhile, fellow “Ones to Watch” honorees and college men Murata (Ms1W) and Ichiyamamoto (Ms3E) reach the division’s summit in just their 9th tournaments (though Ichiyamamoto gets bonus points for having got here just as quickly from Jonokuchi). Murata is a big bopper who loves a good ol’ fashioned oshi-fuelled brawl. Ichiyamamoto mixes it up a little more but is still mostly a pusher-thruster.

The Brother

The youngest of Arashio-beya’s three Onami brothers, Wakatakakage not only made it first to Juryo but then stuck at the level, managing a kachi-koshi in his first trip to the pros. Middle brother Wakamotoharu (Ms4W) now finds himself on the brink – with the third and oldest brother Wakatakamoto not so far behind at Ms10. Having only eked out 3 wins from similar positions on the banzuke in the past, he’ll be looking to improve his record in this part of the sumo world this time, to set up a promotion challenge either this time or next. It’s a sprint between the two remaining brothers to catch Wakatakakage now, but Wakamotoharu is in the pole position.

The Cups of Coffee

27 year old Akua (Ms5W) and 23 year old Hakuyozan (Ms1E) both spent years making the long and winding trek through the lower reaches of the banzuke before managing just a “cup of coffee” in the pros, each returning back to Makushita after one tournament where they both clearly looked overmatched. They’ll be wanting to make sure the chance to establish themselves at a higher level does not go begging again.

The Wild Cards

22 year olds Gokushindo (Ms2E) and Kiribayama (Ms3W) have different origin stories and routes to this point, but what they have in common is a certain inconsistency. Kiribayama at times has looked utterly dominant in this division, and is the current yusho holder. Gokushindo has tended to take 2 steps forward followed by one step back as he adjust to the differences in quality in what is a Makushita tier which effectively has divisions within the division, such is the gulf in class between various areas of the ranks. Having posted a 6-1 record last time out, it would seemingly stand to reason he would need an adjustment period again this time, but he will face familiar foes having beaten Ichiyamamoto, Murata and Wakamotoharu in May (the latter two using a style best described as “Ichinojo” – a ponderously lengthy wait-out of a grapple in the centre of the dohyo followed by an escort over the bales and a throw respectively), losing only to Kiribayama.

The Terunofuji

At the time of writing, it appears to be unclear whether we’re going to see Terunofuji (Ms6E) in Nagoya. The man has undergone plenty of work on both knees, and suffered a less than fruitful spell in Juryo, which was also apparently hindered at times by diabetes related treatment. What his tournament ability is, at this point in the game, is still unclear. While it’s possible and even likely he may drop further (either due to performance or kyujo-status), the very presence of a former Ozeki in this part of the banzuke should give pause to each of the other names listed here – if he does show up, it’s obviously to compete and to win.

Ones to Watch: Natsu 18 Midpoint

kokugikan

As we wrap up the first week of the May 2018 basho, let’s check in with some of our up-and-comers to see whether or not they’ve got good chances of moving up the banzuke after the tournament.

Before we start, a few items that might be of note to lower-division watchers:

Toyonoshima and Toyohibiki have both got off the mark to perfect records in upper-Makushita. Many sumo fans will be rooting for Toyonoshima to make it back to sekitori status, but that’s not the extent of his ambitions: despite turning 35 in a few weeks, he’s trying to come all the way back up to Makuuchi. Hiro Morita noted on today’s NHK broadcast that Toyonoshima made Kotoshogiku promise he wouldn’t retire until he made it back to makuuchi, so that the two could resume their long-standing rivalry!

Next, Chiyootori has come back into the dohyo down in Sandanme-land. The big man was heavily bandaged and looked awful on Day 3 when I saw him, but somehow won his other two matches and sits with a decent chance of a promotion back to the third tier. He gets called up to face Shikihide’s Baraki next, a smaller man making his debut at the Makushita level this time, a man whose chances of making the top divisions John Gunning poured cold water on in our Tachiai interview earlier this year. So, that might be a match to look out for on Day 8.

Now, onto the young guns:

Makushita

Ms1 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – The 25 year old is a win away from clinching a debut in Juryo, as he sits 3-1 so far. His sole loss has come to a desperate Tsurugisho when called up to Juryo for a day to make up the numbers following Terunofuji’s kyujo. He’s not in action day 8 but it’s likely his next match will be against Ichiyamamoto thereafter. He’s knocked off a couple ex-Juryo guys already in Amakaze and Tochihiryu. I saw him unleash an unstoppable oshi-attack on day 3 against the latter to win by tsukidashi.

Ms5 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The pusher-thruster is the only other rikishi in the top 5 Makushita slots to post 3 wins thus far, so if he does in fact get drawn against Chiyonoumi, he’s got a bit more riding on it. 4 wins should be enough to get Chiyonoumi up whatever the outcome, but at this rank Ichiyamamoto may need as many as 6 wins depending what happens up in Juryo and above him throughout the second week. He too has knocked off two ex-sekitori in Jokoryu of Kise-beya and Kizenryu. When I saw him Day 3 against the latter, he was absolutely flawless against the more experienced rikishi, winning by oshitaoshi.

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – Mixed results so far for the “Next Generation” star, who finds himself 2-2. While he beat Akua, his losses came against Kizaki of Kise-beya and Murata – two guys who may well make it to Juryo before he gets back and the exactly the kinds of rikishi he needs to be beat to show he’s ready for the next level after his overpromotion last time. He too won’t be in action until at least Day 9.

Ms7 Murata (Takasago) – His second go in the Makushita joi is going a bit better than the first, as he’s adjusted to the higher level of opposition en route to a 3-1 start. His next match is likely to be against Wakamotoharu (the middle of the Arashio-beya brothers), so hopefully the big bopper brought his Onami code to the basho (… I’ll get my coat).

Ms13 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – As I said at the outset this is the first time Tomokaze’s been put up against strong opposition and it shows in his 1-2 record. He gets Makushita lifer Tsurubayashi of Kise-beya on Day 8 in what will likely be a bellwether this tournament for his current ability to compete at this part of the banzuke.

Ms13 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The elder Onami brother came into this tournament on fire (not literally), which was quickly doused by first match loss to Toyonoshima. There’s no shame in that, but he now finds himself at 2-2 and so will need a strong second week to keep up the progress.

Ms20 Midorifuji (Isegahama) – The small man from Kinki U has come out 1-2 to start the tournament, and Tokushinho of Kise-beya now stands in his way on Day 8. It used to be that your route to a yusho in makuuchi ran through Isegahama-beya, and while that’s no longer the case, you will have noticed by this point in the post it’s impossible to make progress in the Makushita division without a good record against Kise-beya.

Ms26 Ryuko (Onoe) – I said it was “all about the rebound” this time up, but the man has been pushed, shoved and crushed out en route to 1-3 start. Big second week on the cards.

Ms30 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – One of the men doing the business to Ryuko is this man, who beat him on Day 7 by yoritaoshi. He’s 2-2 in his proper debut in this part of the banzuke after flu-enforced absence last time, so I’ll be looking for that 4th win so that he can resume his good progress. He’s another guy I caught in Day 3 action and despite his heavily strapped knees, he delivered a professional performance, moving forward against Asakoki and depositing him out via yorikiri with minimum fuss.

Ms36 Tanabe (Kise) – He’s looking to get it right in his second go at the division and looks to be off to a good start at 2-1. On day 3 I saw him take on Ichiki and my word, he absolutely tossed him out of the dohyo. He has immense strength. Also he’s still in zanbara in tournament number 7. His only loss came to the as yet perfect Kiribayama who blows hot and cold (currently very hot), and he’ll take on Aomihama on Day 8.

Ms50 Inoue (Kise) – He looked good on Day 3 against Wakanofuji but I must have been his lucky charm as he’s dropped his other two matches in his makushita debut. Lucky for him, I’ll be in attendance on Day 8 when he gets Kokonoe’s fabulously named Chiyonokatsu.

Ms52 Shoji (Musashigawa) & Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I had the American Musashikuni just shading it among the two promoted stablemates, as he has more experience of the level. So far, both men sit with two losses, though Shoji also has two wins having competed a day more. Both will need a winning record to secure their place in the division, and Musashikuni gets his chance to keep the party going with a Day 8 match against 34 year old Katsunofuji. While I witnessed his loss on Day 3, I did feel that his commitment to always keep going forward was notable and a very good sign.

Sandanme

Sd40 Kizakiumi (Kise) – He steamrolled Jonidan opposition last time out in his debut as Sandanme tsukedashi and he has picked up where he left off, posting 4 from 4 as he looks to get out of the division as quickly as he got into it. It doesn’t look like he’ll get pulled too far up the banzuke by the schedulers in his next match, so we’d look for that to happen by his 6th or 7th match assuming he’s still in the yusho race.

Sd42 Tsukahara (Kasugano) – It won’t be a 3rd yusho from his 3 first tournaments for the Kasugano man, but there are other guys in his stable challenging for honors this time so we’ll give him a pass. He’s 2-1 thus far though and will partake in a battle of the extremes against 39 year old Gorikiyama on Day 8, who is taking in his 145th basho in an example of what makes sumo great.

Sd73 Torakio (Naruto) – The Bulgarian’s first attempt at the division was disrupted by injury and his second attempt has at least started rather better, as he’s at 2-1. He gets lightweight Hamadayama on Day 8, who could be a good candidate for the strong youngster to attempt to dominate.

Sd77 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – He started with 3 wins but was dropped from the yusho race by Satoyama on Day 7, so the big man will have to be content with another big move up the banzuke if he can regain his form in week 2.

Sd89 Hayashi (Futagoyama – moves from Fujishima) – Mike Hayashi appears to be faring better against callow opponents in his first appearance at Sandanme as he’s beaten a 20 year old while dropping two to much more experienced counterparts. Somewhat more luckily for him, he gets 22 year old (but experienced) Ariake on Day 8.

Jonidan

Jd6 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – Not the best week for the much vaunted Mongolian as he sits 1-2 and on the verge of having his promotion campaign derailed. 3 wins from his last 4 should still do it, and the challenge begins anew against 23 year old Jonidan sumo addict Masutenryu on Day 8.

Jd11 Naya (Otake) – No problems here. The future superstar and postcard art subject has continued his bulldozing act through the fifth tier and looks to be on course for another yusho. His next opponent is oft-injured 21 year old Wakasenryu, and I can’t imagine Naya – an incredibly developed 18 year old war machine with a young history of winning and a perfect pedigree – is the kind of person that a young rikishi with fitness problems is going to want to be facing.

Jd14 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – We’ve been covering him all week on the site as usual, and he’s back on the winning track, taking a 2-1 record into the midpoint. He’ll get Naya’s 20 year old stablemate Shinyashiki on Sunday, so we’ll be looking to catch that match.

Jd42 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – Asashoryu’s Nephew™ is working hard for a rematch date with Naya as he’s also off to a perfect start, at 3-0. He gets youngster Izumigaya on Day 8 and if he can come through that and probably one more match, we’d expect to see the rivalry resume in the sixth match of the basho.

Jonokuchi

Jk16 Terasawa (Takasago) & Jk16 Kawamoto (Kasugano) – Out of all of the new debutants this tournament, it was always going to be tough to come up with the goods, but it looks like I’ve drawn a blank with the obvious choice of taking two college guys to take the division by storm. Terasawa’s already dropped two matches, and Kawamoto sits 2-1 and definitely out of the yusho running. That said, as many as 3 wins may still be enough to move up to Jonidan for the pair.

Jk25 Iwamori (Hakkaku) – The rikishi with zero sumo experience but more of a sumo frame than most, is off to a 1-2 start. We’ll be interested to see where this ends up, as it will still be fun to follow the career of a person who joined sumo after being teased at school for their big frame.

Finally, for fans of Hattorizakura, Herouth posted a great video on Twitter earlier of his latest defeat. Video comes from the “Sumo Samurai Hattorizakura” channel. He gave it an almighty go:

Ones to Watch: Natsu 18

EDION Arena - Enho vs Wakatakakage - Haru 2018 Day 8 Juryo
Your Tachiai column for half full arenas

We are less than 12 hours out from the start of the Natsu basho! So it’s time to check in with our up and coming friends from the lower divisions. This time we say goodbye to Hakuyozan and Wakatakakage, promoted to Juryo. This post will also be a very abbreviated version of this feature (analysis wise – the list is actually longer than usual) as I am under the weather, however I intend to gambarize and will be back with you with some coverage from the tournament and the usual analysis on all of these guys at the midpoint and at the end. Perhaps you will see me at Kokugikan!

Makushita

Ms1 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – The 25 year old has run his way through the Makushita meat-grinder with a series of impressive performances to leave himself poised for promotion with a kachi-koshi here.

Ms5 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – This will be the oshi-tending rikishi’s 8th tournament. He has stern competition at this part of the banzuke but has only put together less than 5 wins on one occasion in the bottom tiers and no losing records. A good tournament here should see him move into the pole position or better at Aki Nagoya.

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – He’s back! We love Enho, but there’s no doubting that he was over-promoted to Juryo due to wild circumstances with a record that usually would not merit it. Now, unless he grabs an unlikely yusho, he’ll hopefully get a couple more tournaments to season himself, develop his physicality and bounce back before the end of the year.

Ms7 Murata (Takasago) – This is also the 8th tournament for this big man, however while Ichiyamamoto got here “the hard way,” Murata was a Sandanme tsukedashi starter. Either way, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

Ms13 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tournament number 6 for the big osha-fighter from Oguruma-beya, and probably the first one in which he will face strong opposition. He should run into Toyonoshima and that will be a good one to watch, and a good test for the veteran against a newcomer here with a developed physique.

Ms13 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – I’m going for -takamoto over-motoharu of the remaining brothers to watch this time out. While both his brothers are ranked higher, he’s on a solid 16-5 run since coming back from injury and in Vegas you always just play that hot hand.

Ms20 Midorifuji (Isegahama) – First time on the list for the slight man from Isegahama. We’ve talked at length in the Heya Power Rankings about the stable’s decline relative to others for various reasons, but there is some light and some hope and it could be that this man is starting to put it together at this level after a 6-1 tournament in Osaka in what was his 9th tournament. Curiously, he loves a katasukashi, having won 13 bouts with the slightly less common technique in his young career.

Ms26 Ryuko (Onoe) – The 19 year old is still young for the level, and is yet another man making his 8th tournament appearance, but suffered his first make-koshi last time out, so it’s all about the rebound as he tries to keep up with some of his more esteemed mates.

Ms30 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – The other hot talent of Isegahama got a bit of a mulligan last time as he fell down the banzuke having succumbed to the heya flu in January. Now he gets a second bite at the division from mid table, and hopefully this time we can see what the youngster, who has two lower division yusho, can do.

Ms36 Tanabe (Kise) – Another guy who had a gnarly Hatsu, Tanabe put it right in his return to Sandanme, reclaiming his impressive form with the 4th 6-1 record in his 6 career tournaments. The 23 year old university man should be placed well to continue making progress. Kise have a lot of good talents right now, and I skipped over Kizaki who has been included in this feature before, but has had middling results of late.

Ms50 Inoue (Kise) – Another first time member of the list, and it’s the man ranked opposite Ura. The 18 year old has more tournament experience than many members of this list combined, but started to put it together in 2018 with a pair of back to back records that saw him finally out of Sandanme purgatory after a couple years. 4 losses will probably send him back, so he hasn’t got a lot of margin for error.

Ms52 Shoji (Musashigawa) – The first of a few Musashigawa men passes Mushashikuni by the narrowest of margins in the race to give the heya a sekitori. It’s just the 5th tournament for a man who struggled in his first go at sandanme after grabbing two yusho to start his career, so we’ll be a little conservative with our optimism this time out.

Ms52 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – Let us not forget that this stable has two Americans (Wakaichiro is technically not the foreign rikishi) and Musashimaru’s nephew has escalated himself back up to the third division for what will be his ninth tournament at the level after just a one-basho stay in Sandanme. We’ll look for him to get the consistency to stick around and start to consolidate his place at the level this time out, so I’d have him doing better than Shoji if forced to pick.

Sandanme

Sd40 Kizakiumi (Kise) – The Sandanme tsukedashi entrant from Haru – and brother of Kizaki – put “six of the best” on the board, but did it largely against Jonidan opposition. He gets a decent bump up the rankings this time and a similar return will see him join the umpteen rikishi higher up this post in Aki. If he can keep moving fast, it will be good to see another sibling rivalry in the sekitori promotion fight.

Sd42 Tsukahara (Kasugano) – It’s basho number 3 for the Kasugano newcomer, the first two having ended in championship glory. I limited the list to 20 rikishi until now, but I’m not making the mistake of leaving him out again, so we’re going to start to follow his performances more carefully. Like Kizakiumi he’s in with a decent shout of a step up if he can put together another title challenge.

Sd73 Torakio (Naruto) – Ever seen a photo of someone and think, “wow, that person just looks like a thoroughly nice and decent person?” That’s what Naruto-oyakata looks like to me. I haven’t met him or his fellow Bulgarian disciple but both men will be wishing for better as Torakio takes a second stab at the division following an injury-inspired nightmare in January.

Sd77 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – The big bopper takes two promotions from two with 12 wins from 14. Here’s where the opposition should start to become a little more challenging for a man of his larger build… or perhaps he’ll just continue bulldozing his way through the banzuke.

Sd89 Hayashi (Futagoyama – moves from Fujishima) – Mike Hayashi follows the former Miyabiyama to Futagoyama beya and so in his debut for the new stable, his 4th tournament in total, the half-Filipino man will look to establish himself at his new level. He had to recover from an 0-3 hole last time out, so expectations will be somewhat tempered as the 19 year old finds his footing.

Jonidan

Jd6 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – The Mongolian started to put it all together in his second tournament in March after surprisingly struggling a bit in his Jonokuchi debut. At this rank the erratic young talent should be as nailed on for a promotion as anyone on this list…

Jd11 Naya (Otake) – … apart from maybe this guy. The Grandson of Taiho™ blasted his way through his debut tournament, inking a mammoth promotion and will probably do the same again here. It would be shocking if he’s not got to Makushita by year’s end.

Jd14 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Bruce covered his prospects in a little more detail earlier today on the site. We’ll be looking for a third promotion to Sandanme for the Texan rikishi this time out. A matchup with Naya would also certainly be interesting.

Jd42 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – Asashoryu’s Nephew™ is a more slight fellow than Naya and his loss to said starlet perhaps overshadowed his wholly expected impressive result last time as well. There are a handful of other competitors (like Nakanishi who dropped his only Jonokuchi bout to Hoshoryu) but it’s possible the two men may again meet in a final bout or playoff.

Jonokuchi

There are an enormous – not unprecedented, but still a lot – amount of new names added to the banzuke for this tournament after the usual annual influx of new names into mae-zumo in Haru. Massive props are due to everyone at SumoForum (including frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari) who put together a pretty amazing resource thread of all of the new recruits this time out, cobbled together from various news posts/tweets/etc. We’re just going to have to see what happens, but here are three names worth watching:

Jk16 Terasawa (Takasago) & Jk16 Kawamoto (Kasugano) – These guys are the two college entrants this time, and Terasawa in particular has a good pedigree having narrowly missed Sandanme tsukedashi qualification. There’s plenty more in the SumoForum thread which frequent readers of this column are recommended to check out.

Jk25 Iwamori (Hakkaku) – The stable that brought you the hotly talented Hokutofuji now brings in a rikishi with… absolutely zero sumo experience. Seriously. Apparently he was picked on at school for his big-bodied physique, and now he has an opportunity to feel good about himself. So, that’s a cool feel-good story. And, by the way, he won 2 from 4 in the maezumo tournament, so he’s already put dirt on more foes than our man Hattorizakura has managed. He could be a fun one to follow.

Ones to Watch: Haru 18 Wrap-up

EDION Arena Osaka Lower Division Match

Tachiai readers please forgive me, as I was so pre-occupied trying to get folks to Osaka so that I forgot to wrap-up a few loose-ends of our Ones to Watch coverage! So let’s dig into it.

As usual let’s start with some high level stats on how our picks performed. At Kyushu we managed 17 kachi-koshi against 3 make-koshi, but slipped to a 12-8 record at Hatsu. How did we do at Haru?

Continue reading

Ones to Watch: Haru 18 Midpoint

EDION Arena Osaka Lower Division Match

If you’ve been reading Tachiai this week, you’ll no doubt be aware of the fantastic coverage that Herouth has been giving the lower divisions each day. That makes my job in rounding up the progress and goals for our “Ones to Watch” much much easier. As mentioned, I was at the EDION Arena on Day 8 and so was able to grab a couple more of my own videos to throw in with the footage that Herouth has collected over the week. Let’s get into it:

Makushita

Ms1 Hakuyozan (Takadagawa) – As we mentioned at the outset of the tournament, the well traveled 22 year old is in the ultimate position of needing only a kachi-koshi to make his professional bow. And he has achieved that with his 4-0 start, so we will be seeing him in a kesho-mawashi when the basho returns to Tokyo in a couple months. ay 9 he visits Juryo for the second time – having already seen off the overmatched Enho, he’ll try and take his oshi-attack to the similarly fortuitously promoted Takayoshitoshi.

Ms1 Wakatakakage (Arashio) – The Hatsu yusho winner has been on great form, having already featured five times and sporting a 4-1 record, with two successful trips to Juryo, also at the expense of Enho and Takayoshitoshi. His lone black star came to Hakuyozan, as he attempts to also emphatically book his ticket from a position where the minimum would actually do. Let’s check out Day 8’s bout against Enho courtesy of me:

 

 

Ms5 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – The callow 25 year old will be rewarded for his 3-1 start to this basho with a date with Jokoryu on Day 9. The way things are shaping up both at the top of Makushita and bottom of Juryo, he’d be very much an edge case in the promotion picture at the moment, so not only will he need to beat his veteran counterpart, he will need at least another win beyond that to make his case.

Ms11 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The 24 year old man who has made a blazing start to his career is on the verge of yet another kachi-koshi, having raced out to a 3-1 start care of a pair of slap down wins in his last two matches. If he can finish strongly then he has a chance of finding himself in a good position for promotion next time out.

Ms13 Murata (Takasago) – Murata has bounced back from the setback of Hatsu’s make-koshi in strong terms, having already secured his kachi-koshi with a 4-0 start. He’s faced decent opposition so far, and gets to participate in the narrowing of the yusho race with a match against fellow undefeated rikishi and former Maegashira Fujiazuma on Day 9. He misses out on a matchup with top man Hakuyozan due to the latter’s being called up to Juryo, but should both men prevail then they will almost certainly be each other’s 6th opponent.

Ms17 Ryuko (Onoe) – I predicted Ryuko would lose to Tomokaze, and he did. I did not, however, predict that he would lose his next two matches as well. He has not been able to establish his pushing attack and has been out-thrusted in a couple matches. At 1-3, he still has time to grab the kachi-koshi that I felt would signify good progress after a storming start to his career, but he’s got to win out.

Ms18 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – If Tomokaze is involved you can pretty much guarantee the final result will be an oshidashi for someone, usually him. He knocked off Ryuko and has gone on to post a 3-1 record leaving him in a good position to make a nice jump up the banzuke. He bested Hokaho today in a good match – though it was also notable for the fact that Hokaho might have a shiko to rival that of Abi.

Ms46 Tochikodai (Kasugano) – I was really excited to see Tochikodai make his debut in the division following an incredible tournament last time out, but alas he’s been kyujo for all of the first week, debuting on day 8 with a loss to a struggling rikishi in Sasayama. This has been disappointing for everyone concerned, but since I make the rules on this feature we’re going to sub in another exciting rikishi to make up for the fact that he’s been AWOL.

Ms47 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – After Nishikifuji’s illness-riddled Hatsu, I was expecting to see a bounce back and he has so far delivered to the tune of a 3-1 record. If he can keep up the pace then at Natsu we’ll get to see whether he can recover his early career form to challenge for a spot nearer the top of the division.

Ms56 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – My comments on Fukuyama were that he might struggle given Tanabe’s struggles around the same area of the banzuke last time out, given that the two of them had tracked results quite closely to open their careers in the bottom three divisions. That has indeed borne out as Fukuyama needs to win out to avoid following Tanabe’s path back to Sandanme next time out.

Sandanme

Sd2 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – My “draft and follow” choice and first of three Musashigawa selections in the division had a narrow make-koshi last time out and has featured mixed results this time en route to a 2-2 line thus far.

Sd12 Tanabe (Kise) – What a time to be a Kise-beya rikishi, what with all of the action in the stable around the sekitori promotion line. Tanabe made fast moves but stumbled last time out and I expected him to rebound, regain his promotion and join all his mates up at the top of that division. He’s very close to fulfilling my expectations and likely that of his oyakata with a 3-1 start and a variety of kimarite mixed into the bargain.

Sd37 Shoji (Musashigawa) – The grappler stumbled to a narrow make-koshi last time after a pair of zensho and I was hoping his development would see him back on track. He won the first three matches this time out to set him up for a strong promotion challenge, and then I showed up and filmed him which is basically the curse at this point for talented young rikishi. Let’s check out some VT of the zanbara-clad man’s “oshidashi” (looked to me like he was forced out rather than pushed) loss today to Wakanofuji:

 

 

Sd89 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As we covered earlier, the Texan sumotori dropped his Day 8 bout to Ginseizan, leaving his effort to consolidate his Sandanme position somewhat in the balance as he’s now followed 2 opening wins with 2 losses. That being said, he’s clearly showing a much higher level of skill, ability and ring sense in his second crack at the division, and there’s no question he belongs at the level, so we will hope he can grab those 2 additional wins to secure his spot for Natsu.

Bonus! Sd100TD Kizakiumi (Kise) – Tochikodai’s kyujo week led me to insert Kizakiumi, younger brother to Kise’s Kizaki (previously featured on this rundown, who’s been floating around the top of Makushita for a minute). Kizakiumi’s advanced debut as Sandanme tsukedashi and his performance in that debut give rise to the thought that the 22 year old could scale similar heights before long: he finds himself fresh amongst a yusho challenge, albeit one where he has faced almost exclusively Jonidan challengers so far and he will get another one on Day 9. Should he win, it would be good to see him get pulled up to take on one of the multitude of unbeaten rikishi higher in the division.

Jonidan

Jd5 Hayashi (Fujishima) vs Jd5 Torakio (Naruto) – The pair have mirror records heading into the final week. Hayashi is having some trouble fulfilling his earlier promise at 1-3, while Torakio has recovered well from his injury riddled Little Hatsu of Horrors to put himself a win away from a re-promotion to Sandanme.

Jd42 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – He’s bounced back nicely from an opening day loss to Tsukuhara (who also won the Jonokuchi yusho at his expense and is doubtlessly wondering what he needs to do to get featured here) to post a 3-1 record. They’re starting to build a decent rivalry for two youngsters and this big bopper of an 18 year old will want to finish strongly. Most of the rest of his stable are either hanging around the lower tiers with middling results or are sekitori who are falling apart, so it’s a good time to make some waves.

Jd78 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – One minute you’re the most exciting debutant in the game and then next month the bloodlines of two of the greatest of all time take over all the headlines. Anyway, while all the spotlight has been on the next two characters, Yoshoyama has somewhat quietly put a 4 spot on the board to open Haru. He takes on the 14 slots higher ranked Terumichi on Day 9 as the schedulers start to thin out the yusho herd.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Naya (Otake) – Taiho’s grandson has been mowing down the opposition, including the next man on our list, en route to a 4-0 start. He draws Isegahama’s Osumifuji on Day 9, who is probably reconsidering his career choices. It’s too early to draw too many conclusions apart from the fact that it would take a seismic shift to stop him winning the yusho: he is both massive and has technique, either of which would be good enough to coast at this level but taken together makes him unstoppable for the time being. He has the body of a rikishi ranked divisions higher. We’ll see him there before long.

Jk19 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – Asashoryu’s nephew is also making a strong debut, simply having been outmuscled by Naya as Herouth posted earlier in the week, en route to his current 3-1 record. I was partially hoping that the schedulers would be cruel enough to throw Hattorizakura to the wolves and see what would happen when worlds collide, but they have not done that because they are nice. Instead we’ll watch as Hoshoryu continues to develop his rivalry with Naya, wait until the next time they face each other, and watch him push for as big of a promotion as he can get for Natsu, likely by way of 3 more wins.

Finally, our man Hattorizakura gets the newly renamed Houn on Day 9, a man with two career wins, both of whom came against Hattorizakura. Perhaps he can do the unthinkable?

Ones to Watch: Haru 18

takayoshitoshi-shin-juryo
Pictured: A Tachiai “Ones to Watch” graduate

If you’re a person who feels like the lack of functioning Yokozuna has left a void of intrigue, or that the Juryo storylines for Haru weren’t enough to sate your lower division sumo appetite, then we’re happy to give you the gift of the Ones to Watch for this basho. Haru sees this series’ second and third graduates exit the listing, as Enho and Takayoshitoshi join Mitoryu as Ones to Watch alumni. We wish them the best of luck in the second division, hopefully onward and upward!

Makushita

Ms1 Hakuyozan (Takadagawa) – We won’t get Hakuho at the top of Makuuchi in Osaka, but we will get Hakuyozan at the top of Makushita. The Takadagawa man has been around so long (seven years!) that it’s tough to believe he’s still only 22. After a long run at the level and a number of tries in promotion position, he has made it to the summit of the amateur divisions and four wins from a debut in a kesho-mawashi. He reached the same rank two years ago and failed at the first time of asking, and will hopefully be looking at better results this time, having skilfully navigated the brutal bottleneck at the top of the division to the extent that only his results matter now. He’s not a top prospect and struggles against more hyped opponents, but he’s worth a mention as someone who could be about to make the next step and potentially play a part in the turnover of the upper divisions.

Ms1 Wakatakakage (Arashio) – We’ve been featuring him here since his impressive debut, and now with a yusho in the bag in both the third and fourth divisions, the reigning Makushita championship holder will look to grab the kachi-koshi that will surely seal his promotion to Juryo. Last time out we featured him alongside his brothers, who may not be far behind, but the alliterative rikishi from Fukushima has established a rather impressive record to go with an equally impressive collection of early kimarite. This tournament will present different challenges than he faced in week one at Ms17, but it’s hard to look past the yusho holder when making a list of must-follow competitors at this level in Osaka.

Ms5 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – It dawned on me while writing this that for all of their mainstays in the top divisions, we’ve never featured a Kokonoe-beya rikishi in one of these listings. Chiyonoumi won three early yusho to vault him up the banzuke only to fall to an extended kyujo period and have to rebuild his status again. Therefore it is a bit of an anomaly that at the age of 25, this is only his 14th tournament. Of his previous tournaments, he has suffered only one make-koshi and has rebounded nicely to put himself into promotion position, a lane made slightly clearer now that he will no longer have to face a seasoned sekitori in Osunaarashi.

Ms11 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – Hatsu made it a sixth consecutive convincing kachi-koshi to open Ichiyamamoto’s career, and he will look for similar results in Osaka to set himself up for a promotion window at Natsu. ‘Big Guns’ Shohozan is the only sekitori in the stable, but the oshi-specialist Ichiyamamoto is making a case to join him later this year by relying on relentless forward motion to put together a string of impressive, clinical performances. As with Wakatakakage, the top quarter of the Makushita division will present some altogether different challenges than he faced the last few times out, and adjusting to veteran opposition will be the challenge here. There are a slew of Juryo/Makuuchi vets right in front of him on the banzuke and he will surely get matched with some of them over the next two weeks.

Ms13 Murata (Takasago) – Murata had a setback last time as he ran into highly competitive opposition, but there’s not going to be any let-up this time despite the drop from Ms8 to Ms13. He will likely face many of the same names that pushed him to a 3-4 make-koshi, but he suffered the same result at Aki and responded at Kyushu by correcting errors en route to a convincing 6-1 record which vaulted him up the banzuke and into the promotion mixer. The good side of his challenging list of likely opponents is that he did face many of them four months ago in that strong Kyushu, and that should position him confidently to reclaim his spot in the top ten at Natsu.

Ms17 Ryuko (Onoe) – Ryuko is just one loss worse off than Ichiyamamoto in his career, and it’s fairly incredible that the difference between them at this point is their first ever professional match in Jonokuchi, a head-to-head bout won by Ichiyamamoto on his way to the yusho. Another oshi-heavy fighter, Ryuko now comes into a part of the banzuke where he’s going to be pitted against tougher opponents. A 4 or 5 win tournament here would be a good show of progress.

Ms18 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – He knocked off Ryuko at Hatsu and I would expect him to face him again and win again. I expect a little more from the Oguruma man who has pocketed two lower division yusho already. He shows promise, and may be able to stem the bleeding the stable is starting to experience in the top two divisions. It would be an enormous surprise if he’s not able to get to Juryo by Kyushu, especially as the promotion lanes appear to be more open than ever, in spite of the enormous bottleneck at the top of the division. Tomokaze is a good sized rikishi with good physicality, but maintaining mobility and balance in his matches against tougher rikishi is going to be key.

Ms46 Tochikodai (Kasugano) – It’s an exciting time at Kasugano-beya, and after a steady start to his career, Tochikodai pressed the accelerator with an impressive 7 win run at Sandanme to launch himself far up the banzuke. Many who dominate the lower levels tend to struggle in their first matches in mid-Makushita, so how he copes with a significantly increased quality of opposition may be fascinating. What’s also interesting is where we see many prospects relying on oshi-zumo manoeuvres, Tochikodai is, like his stablemate Tochinoshin, a rikishi who wants to get on the mawashi. He has no issue waiting out his opponent in the middle of the dohyo before attempting a more varied mix of kimarite than the common oshidashi-or-nothing.

Ms47 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – We’ll allow a mulligan here as Nishikifuji suffered along with many other Isegahama rikishi from illness during the Hatsu basho, which deposited him back down around the ranking we saw him at Kyushu. He turned in a strong performance there, however, and the goal now is to reclaim the ranking in the upper half of the division that he ceded with his poor performance at Hatsu. Hopefully he’s genki and ready to go.

Ms56 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – It’s five straight kachi-koshi to open the Fujishima man’s career, but the last two have been of the last day variety. Fukuyama has somewhat tracked careers with Tanabe thus far, and as the rikishi that I’ve always felt was more talented – Tanabe – struggled to hold his own at this level last time out, that may forebode similar results. An early 4th win would do wonders here.

Sandanme

Sd2 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – As I said at the time, this is going to be more of the draft-and-follow type of pick for me. We’ll hang in there because we believe in the man’s pedigree, and there’s just a lot of interesting stuff happening at Musashigawa-beya right now. We regularly have 2-3 rikishi on the list and while it has taken him a while to progress, it’s getting tough to look past this man – the top in the stable – as potentially the one who will represent the stable at some point (maybe late 2019 or 2020) in the professional ranks.

Sd12 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe was still in zanbara at Hatsu and in addition to not looking the part, he didn’t act the part. He’s another oshi-zumo guy who suffered some truly humiliating losses in his debut at Makushita level following a confident progression to the division over 4 tournaments in which he made it look, frankly, easy. The minimum requirement here is a competent, strong kachi-koshi, so that he can get back where he belongs and continue his progression. Confidence is really the key word in terms of what I’m looking for out of Tanabe this time out.

Sd37 Shoji (Musashigawa) – Shoji probably wasn’t the best rikishi in the two tournaments he won over Torakio, but he won them and that’s what counts. But in so doing, he was promoted beyond his means and fell to a narrow make-kochi last time out. I think he’s well placed here to regain his momentum. His tachiai isn’t brilliant but that’s to be expected at the level. This guy does more grappling than Edmund Hillary. The interesting thing in that is that while he cruised to those first two yusho mostly with push/thrust victories, he clearly seems to want to go to work on the mawashi, as Murray Johnson might say. Watching the development of a young rikishi in that moment is pretty fascinating stuff.

Sd89 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Obviously, we breathlessly covered the Texan’s re-promotion to the fourth tier at Hatsu, and we’ll be looking for better results this time out following a tough Kyushu at the level where he posted just one win. However if we’re looking for positive omens, he seems to struggle a bit against the seemingly omnipresent Sadogatake rikishi in this part of the banzuke with a 1-4 record against the stable, and it’s unlikely he’ll face more than one of them this time out. His markedly more confident dohyo presence (including a face slapping routine which feels like it could even develop into something Takamisakari inspired) is continuing to make him an even more enjoyable watch. As ever, Team Tachiai will be cheering him on.

Jonidan

Jd5 Hayashi (Fujishima) vs Jd5 Torakio (Naruto) – It’s kind of cool when you get to see two really interesting rikishi at the same rank this far down. Mike Hayashi has had two quietly good tournaments to start his career. His positioning at the top of the division is arguably a lot more interesting from a competitive perspective than had he been promoted a level after his 5 win Hatsu, as a good tournament could see him set for a huge promotion next time out. Torakio, meanwhile, has been demoted following a shocking time of it at Hatsu where he went 2-4-1, suffering a henka loss and then two nasty throws which left him clutching his arm in pain both times. The strong Bulgarian has already shown he can be a force to be reckoned with – and it’ll be interesting to see his health tested, especially should he be drawn as expected against his counterpart here from the off.

Jd42 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – Kototebakari just had too much for his opponents last time out, and at 188 cm had a big height advantage on competitors. He is an imposing rikishi and only lost the yusho via a playoff after dropping his only match on a visit up a level to Jonidan, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the improved level of competition. Sadogatake have an enormous amount of rikishi in the stable – he’s going to be an interesting follow as the stable has a couple interesting prospects but many rikishi who are lost in Sandanme.

Jd78 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – Bigger things were expected in the debut from the Mongolian who limped to a 4-3 kachi-koshi. He didn’t appear as strong as his billing, but if you’re looking for positives at least you can say he has a lower and more aggressive tachiai than his much maligned stablemate Shodai. This is still a part of the banzuke where a good prospect can do some serious damage, and if he’s added strength/weight he should still be a good bet for a strong tournament.

Jonokuchi

Haru is the tournament that sees the most amount of entrants to the sport, and we will see a bumper crop of new, talented rikishi taking their turns in mae-zumo. However, two of the most anticipated debutants will make their full bow in Osaka, and both come with connections to two of the all time greats – along with considerable media coverage:

Jk18 Naya (Otake) – he is the grandson of Taiho, and so naturally has moved into the predecessor heya to the one owned/operated by his grandfather, the great. He is also the son of former Sekiwake/oyakata and 9-time kinboshi specialist Takatoriki. So, he has some fairly large footsteps to fill. However, at just the age of 18, he is already a fairly massive 166kg. His progression will be fascinating to watch, along with that of…

Jk19 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – The nephew of Yokozuna Asashoryu has been covered/anticipated in sumo circles for a while. You may have seen him referenced under his real name Byambasuren before he took a shikona referencing his famous relative. While comparisons will doubtlessly be made, it would be unfair to expect the meteoric rise of his uncle. Naya got the better of him in maezumo, and they will inevitably match up again here, and it may be the first of many interesting battles to come, should they both meet their potential and hype.

Ones to Watch: Hatsu 18 Wrap-up

With the New Years basho having concluded this past weekend with a wonderful and unexpected result, it’s now time to take a look down the banzuke and check on the overall performances of this tournament’s Tachiai Ones to Watch™. Last time out, we posted a 17-3 kachi-koshi record and collected 2 yusho from the 4 lower divisions.

Results

So, how did our picks do this time?

Kachi-koshi: 1️⃣2️⃣
Make-koshi: 8️⃣
Yusho: 🏆
Juryo promotions: 1️⃣
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – One of our dear favorites locked in his kachi-koshi at the last chance, posting a 4-3 record. We are unabashed fans of Enho, he is exciting and amazing to watch. However, that he was even in the promotion conversation with this record at this rank is a testament to the mess at the bottom of Juryo. He has now been receiving (semi) daily stern tests against rikishi of similar pedigree and veterans who have seen the promised land and do not appreciate being exiled from it. On the face of it, the trip to Juryo may be extremely challenging to him so let’s hope he can gain some good pounds in the right places.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The Arashio bros combined for a 15-6 record driven largely by Wakatakakage’s impressive zensho yusho, which should place him at or near the top of the division for Haru. Like Enho, Wakamotoharu found it tough in the insanely congested top of the Makushita division, falling to a 3-4 record, and should find himself near enough to Wakatakamoto whose 5 win basho should propel him near enough the top quarter of the division. Should those two post similar records next time out it might make things interesting for the schedulers! If we’re going to look at areas of improvement, Wakamotoharu may need the opposite plan as Enho going forward as he handled the veterans nicely but tended to struggle against the up and coming rikishi.

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – Murata, who debuted at the same time with Wakatakakage and who had largely matched his progress, will fall back behind his rival having suffered the narrowest of make-koshi. In fairness, having come through a horrendous start, he recovered nicely in the last couple of matches to ensure his demotion will not be too extreme. If we’re going to look for a highlight, his second bout match against the triple lower division yusho winner and Kokonoe up-and-comer Chiyonoumi might provide a key for future success – he’s able to stand his ground against a composed opponent and use his mass and pushing/thrusting to keep moving forward and move him out (hat tip to One and Only for the video coverage):

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – It’s another solid kachi-koshi at 5-2 for Nishonoseki’s university man, who just continues to progress. Ichiyamamoto is an extreme pusher-thruster and it will be interesting to watch his results as he starts now to come up against rikishi with a better plan at the tachiai. Gochozan’s revenge win against him in this tournament was a case of a match that started as a pushing festival and ended up with Ichiyamamoto’s arms getting locked up and not really having much of a plan B. If someone’s going to lock up his arms he may struggle, but if he can establish his pushing attack he’s a difficult rikishi to beat at this level.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Owing to the flu circulating Isegahama-beya, we’re going to have to give Nishikifuji a pass on an awful 1-5-1 tournament that blighted an otherwise brilliant start to his career. The banzuke makers of course will not be so kind, but the last time that a 1 win tournament at his rank wasn’t enough to keep a rikishi in this division was 1948. He put up 6 wins at Ms52 last time out and that’s probably about where we’ll see him next time and will expect him to restart his progress.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another solid tournament for Ryuko who makes it three consecutive 5-2s to follow the three consecutive 6-1s to open his career. Intriguingly, he used a greater variety of winning techniques here than some of his contemporaries higher up on this post. While he certainly gets his share of oshi- wins, over the last two tournaments he has started mixing in throws. Only one of them seems to have been particularly well executed (in Kyushu against Ikeru) but that also may come down to the quality of opponent. It’s going to be interesting to see how he mixes and matches and whether his strategy will continue to develop as he reaches the higher levels.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – It’s another really solid start to Tomokaze’s career, and after 4 basho he should find himself placed solidly in the upper part of the division after putting up 5 more wins here. Had he not run into Wakatakamoto in the middle of the tournament, it would have been interesting to see if he could challenge for yet another yusho, but as it stands the Oguruma man (who dealt with Ryuko for the first time in the early stages of Hatsu) will be pleased with his progress as he develops into a large and physical rikishi. What happens to his mobility as his size increases will be an interesting watch.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I had picked Musashikuni almost more as a “draft and follow” kind of guy than an immediate one to watch. I thought he had a good chance this time out at handling the opposition at this rank, but it never really came together until the end of a 3-4 tournament that will leave him as very much an edge case for remaining in the division for Osaka. This is more of a long term choice and we’re going to stick with him next time out and, like his stablemate Wakaichiro, continue to bet on his potential.

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe had absolutely coasted through the bottom 3 divisions and even started here with 2 wins from 3 but in truth I could tell after seeing him in person on Day 2 that this was not going to be his basho, and from the midway point he completely unraveled with 4 straight losses (to end 2-5), the lowlight of which was a shocking ashitori from Amanoshima on Day 11. He has “bouncebackability” to be sure, but he’s going to need some serious keiko to right the ship and prepare for another assault on promotion back to Makushita.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama pulls out a last ditch kachi-koshi which will secure his promotion up to Makushita. While he started his career strong with 3 straight 6 win tournaments, his progress has slowed and it will be interesting to see if he can better the results of his rival Tanabe, who he has never beaten, in his debut at the next level.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – We doubted Shoji’s ability to pull off the third consecutive yusho on his Sandanme debut and that hesitation proved to be well-founded as he finished with his first career make-koshi at 3-4. That all being said, he improved in the latter half of the basho and won’t fall so far down that a good tournament next time won’t propel him forward, so the Musashigawa man will hope this is a minor setback. This is the first tournament where it could be argued Shoji didn’t face anyone of a similar pedigree or level of progression (and that may continue to be the case) so how he deals with more of a mixed bag of veteran opponents will determine his future.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Kotokumazoe’s hot comeback run was stopped dead in its tracks with 3 straight losses, but the Sadogatake man did well over the last week to finish 3-1 and end with a narrow make-koshi at what was his highest career posting to date. His thrust-heavy attack didn’t look especially inspired in either of the matches for which there is video footage but his persistence in his day 15 win against Tochikasuga at least gives some reason for optimism.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – A tournament to forget for Torakio who started strong and ended injured. We thought he’d fare better than Shoji this time out, and he started strong at 2-0 but dropped 4 straight before going kyujo, the final two of which culminated in injury-inspiring and frankly very painful looking throws. However before this, what was clear from all 4 losses was that despite how strong we have seen Torakio to be, he suffered from a very weak tachiai which was beginning to be exploited even at the bottom of Sandanme. After his make-koshi clinching under-arm throw inflicted by Ryuki on day 12, he remained on the floor for a very long time. Obviously we wish the strong Torakio the best of health, and hope he can make a comeback in the upper reaches of Jonidan next time out.

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively already on the site, Wakaichiro had a fantastic return to form at 5-2 (winning his first four) and one that will see him almost certainly repromoted to Sandanme for his second crack at the division in Osaka. The last time this record at this rank wasn’t good enough for a promotion was 1958, so it’s as close to a banker as you can get.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The Amatsu comeback story continues as his 5-2 record keeps him on pace to return to the higher divisions after his years long layoff!

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – “Mike” Hayashi opened his Jonidan account with 4 straight wins, looking to grab the yusho that eluded him at the first time of asking on his banzuke debut at Kyushu. Despite nursing a heavily bandaged right knee, Hayashi looked pretty composed most of the time here en route to a 5-2 result that will place him alongside Amatsu in the top 10 ranks of Jonidan in Osaka as they continue their unlikely rivalry which Hayashi leads 2-0.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – The pre-tournament projections of the hyped Yoshoyama and his mae-zumo results made him feel like a bona-fide yusho challenger to us but we whiffed on that as he had to rally to secure a 4-3 kachi-koshi in which he did not particularly impress.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – As noted in our mid-basho roundup, the Sadogatake debutant was winning with little effort owing to his size and strength differential. He ran into some trouble when pulled up to Jonidan for a match and ended up losing the playoff to finish with the jun-yusho, but it’s an encouraging start and one which should portend decent results in the bottom half of Jonidan next time out.

As for Hattorizakura… as Herouth noted he did show some improvement and some fight early on in the tournament before returning to his usual ways. The match he really should have won was his (actually quite lengthy) Day 8 match against the tiny Takita, whose two career victories to date both came against Hattorizakura. If he can at least be less afraid of the tachiai, he might be able to sneak one or two. We shall cheer for a victory in Osaka!

Ones to Watch: Hatsu 2018 Midpoint

While much of the conversation of the past week has been about how the Kakuryu-meter runneth over, the basho has been in full swing for the folks that we don’t get to see on the highlights every day, so let’s catch up on the Ones to Watch for Hatsu and see how we’re doing. As a reminder, we picked up 17 kachi-koshi and 2 yusho from our Kyushu picks, and well, that might be a bit of a challenge this time.

As some of you will know, I was at Day 2 of the basho earlier this past week and so, for this first time, we’ve got some of our own video to add as well. I had a great vantage point but was surrounded by some elderly friends of the site who walked in front of the camera a few times, so please don’t mind them. They were having a great time too, and newcomers to sumo have much to learn from seasoned fans who like to get there early and cheer enthusiastically for the good matches that they can take in at the lower levels.

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – We’re now at the stage, with so many of our picks involved in similar areas of the banzuke, that success here is going to look like 4 and 5 win records rather than 6 and 7. And that’s ok, as I suspect Enho would be happy with a kachi-koshi at this stage where he sits at 2-2 after 8 days. He exacted revenge over Jokoryu on Day 1 and picked off another of our picks, Murata on Day 8, but a disappointing loss to the inelegant (no matter which way you look at it) Akiseyama leaves him in somewhat precarious territory as he looks to continue his advancement.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – These guys should all be very happy with their performances. Wakamotoharu sits on 2-2 having run into some tough traffic at the top end of the division, but both his brothers are 4-0 and cruising. Let’s not waste any more words on this and instead check out some VT:

 

Here’s Wakamotoharu’s Day 2 match against our friend Takayoshitoshi. A good old fashioned grapple before he gets dumped out at the end to much cheer from the crowd, with a guest appearance from a gift-bag delivering usher.

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – The schedule is not kind at this level and Murata has been faced with 3 talented up and comers and a rikishi who’s just been unceremoniously dumped out of Juryo in Daisedo, with a 1-3 record to show for it. He faces the equally monovictorious Jokoryu on Day 9, as he attempts to stave off a make-koshi.

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I feel good about this guy and caught the end of his Day 2 bought against Kiribayama (a win) and he is looking good. He sits at 3-1 and is poised for another steady move upward if he can finish the job in the next few days.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – If anyone knows what on earth is going on at Isegahama-beya please let us know in the comments (EDIT: a bunch of folks have got the flu. Thank you to commenter Sakura for the tip-off). We all know about what has beset the top end of their roster but a number of their lower division rikishi pulled out for a couple days in week 1, so the very promising Nishikifuji sits with a 1-2-1 record that is going to make further promotion difficult for him this time out. He gets to face Kise-beya’s one-time Juryo man Takaryu on Day 9.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Now we get to a nicer part of the division where 3 of our picks (Ryuko, Tomokaze and Wakatakamoto) have only lost to each other. So that’s cool and makes us look smart. He’s 3-1.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – See above. Tomokaze’s having a very good time of it on his debut in the division and gets matched up with Tokitsukaze’s 22 year old Hamayutaka on Day 9, who like Tomokaze is 3-1.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – Oh boy. Well, we were right about the pedigree being there, but sadly the Musashigawa man is off to a rough 1-3 start. I got to see him in action in person earlier this week and after two mattas it was clear there was something a little wrong with his timing and composure. He had a good old match against Mugendai though, and unfortunately ended up on the wrong side of history. Let’s take a look:

 

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe is the 15th rikishi from Kise-beya in the Makushita division – that’s more than Miyagino has in their whole stable and even more than Isegahama have had go kyujo in this tournament! Tanabe has built a bit of a rivalry with Fukuyama but must be missing him as he has only been able to muster a 2-2 start. He gets 21 year old Nakazono from Nishonoseki-beya on Day 9.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama is on the brink of promotion and he’s got 3 chances to find the 2 wins to do it and join Tanabe in the next division as he’s 2-2. He’s had the misfortune to run into the streaking Aonosho who looks like he may contend for the yusho here.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – A few commenters mentioned that Torakio would be more likely than Shoji to compete for the yusho at this level, despite Shoji going 2 for 2. His hopes of matching Enho’s hot 3-yusho start have been thoroughly quashed with a rude awakening and a 1-3 start. He needs to be perfect from here on out if he is to continue progressing.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Kotokumazoe had been on a hot comeback run but he seems to have hit an icy patch as well, as he is also 1-3. We won’t see him in action again until at least Day 10.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – As Herouth has covered elsewhere in the past few days, something seems not right about Torakio at the moment and after a couple wins he’s cooled off to a 2-2 start. Hopefully he can recapture his spark and give himself a nice boost up a division that’s proving difficult for our picks.

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Well this is more like it. The Tachiai favorite has shown some much developed sumo to start 2018 and that in itself fills us with much encouragement for his progress. Then you look at his 4-0 start and wonder how far he can go. As Bruce has covered, he gets Tomozuna’s Kaiho on Day 9.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The Amatsu comeback continues apace as only Hayashi has been able to stop him so far. He’s 3-1 and in action Day 9 against 22 year old Nakao of Onoe-beya. The only question seems at the moment to be whether we will stick or twist next time out and continue to follow the comeback story of a veteran of relatively advanced age.

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – “Mike” Hayashi’s off to a 4-0 flyer this time and looking good. He gets Fujihisashi on Day 9 and should he and Wakaichiro win, it’s not out of the question we may see them in action against each other yet in this basho. But hopefully they can both pull it off and we can go from there.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – We loved the projections of the “beastly” Yoshoyama but he’s having a really rough debut tournament. I thought it would not be a shock for him to grab the yusho but he’s been getting handled and his second match loss to Shinfuji was ugly. He may do well to repeat the level.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – At least we got one pick to click at this level! The Sadogatake man is winning with very little effort right now and so as he gets matched up with stronger rikishi, we’ll see if he can carry on and win the title. It’s difficult to say if he actually looks good because he really hasn’t been pushed.

And of course there’s Hattorizakura – winless, but managing to put up more of a fight. Will his first win in over 70 matches come before the end of Hatsu 2018?

Ones to Watch: Hatsu 2018

Enho

Real sumo starts back up again on Sunday, and while we wait with anticipation to see what will happen on the return of some of the premiere stars of the sport, there will be a whole lot of rikishi mounting the dohyo early on in the day, and some of them belong to the next generation of superstars. With that, it’s the return of our Ones to Watch series where we highlight 20 upcoming rikishi from the bottom 4 divisions (and one other special friend of Tachiai).

This time, a slot opens up due to the promotion of Ones to Watch alum Mitoryu of Nishikido-beya, who makes his Juryo debut amid much fanfare. Descriptions here may be somewhat abbreviated as your humble correspondent needs to get on with the business of boarding a plane and going to the basho, but we’ll continue to check in with these guys throughout the tournament and see how they’re getting on, with further analysis.

Finally, as we’ve been following some of these guys for several tournaments now and they’ve repaid our faith by performing well, this month’s set of picks is very Makushita-heavy.

Makushita

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – There’s only one place to start. Miyagino-beya has been involved in some strange controversies in the last few weeks but the good news is that this man continues his trajectory. After acing his first 3 tournaments, he put up a solid 5 win record in November and finds himself nearer the cusp of the sekitori ranks.

However, here’s where things start to get really interesting: his match-ups this time will likely come from a combination of yo-yo rikishi who have bounced up and down from Juryo, grizzled vets trying to make it back to the big time and fellow members of the next huge wave of up-and-comers (more of whom, imminently). Not that he didn’t have solid rivals last time out at Ms14, but I anticipate this tournament will be his first real test.

Ms6 Wakamotoharu, Ms17 Wakatakakage, Ms34 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The three brothers Onami and stablemates (who also all took/changed shikona in the last year presumably in tribute to their grandfather Wakabayama) have all taken up places for the first time towards the upper reaches of the Makushita division. We’ve put Wakatakakage under the spotlight as the university man with some pedigree has flown up the divisions, but he suffered his first make-koshi last time out. Will any of these men reach the next level – and if so, who will reach it first?

Ms8 Murata (Takasago) – We’ve been measuring Murata against Wakatakakage who debuted at the same time and more or less matched his records over several basho, but now it’s time to split them up. I was impressed with how Murata rebounded from a narrow make-koshi last time out to post a sterling 6-1 record and bound into the division’s top 10, but even more impressive was how he easily despatched the much heralded Shonannoumi in so doing.

Ms21 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He had been blitzing his way up the banzuke and I had even tipped him as a sleeper yusho candidate last time out before he came a little unstuck and scraped a narrow 4-3. His match against Kiribayama is going to be interesting, and he’ll likely come up against our next man as well. This part of the banzuke always has an odd collection of mostly declining veterans and rikishi whose peak will be this level with the odd talented youngster thrown in and I’d like to see a more emphatic kachi-koshi here this time out.

Ms23 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Here’s one of the bright spots for Isegahama-oyakata, as this man just continues his fast progress and the 21 year old put up his best record in 5 tournaments as he cruised to a 6 win basho last time out. As with Ichiyamamoto, how he navigates a mixed bag of opponents will determine how quickly he can join a pretty solid collection of rikishi in challenging for Juryo.

Ms30 Ryuko (Onoe) – Ryuko celebrates his anniversary in sumo here having never put up less than 5 wins. I think he will be challenged to continue this impressive feat this time out, as actually this area of the ranking sheet looks a bit tougher to me than where Ichiyamamoto and Nishikifuji find themselves. The 19 year old is off to a great, solid start to his career.

Ms31 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – An almost spotless opening to Tomokaze’s career has him 20-1 with two yusho. Now he takes on the 3rd division and will face some challenging rikishi (I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t run into Ryuko) in his bid to further clog up the Juryo promotion queue.

Ms49 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I really hemmed and hawed about whether I wanted to include him, and his heavy oshi- attack is a little rough around the edges, but I just have a good feeling here. The rank feels good for him and while the results by the numbers haven’t been especially spectacular, I think he’s a good follow for a few tournaments. Obviously, the pedigree is there.

Ms55 Tanabe (Kise) – Kise-beya needs some good news and it’s possible that Tanabe’s promotion to Makushita might be the start of it. Obviously there are an enormous number of rikishi ahead of him just within the stable both inside and outside of this division but I like his match ups at this level. He has done exceptionally well so far and has managed to break apart from Fukuyama who had managed to stay ranked in front of him despite what I saw as slightly poorer performance.

Sandanme

Sd2 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – Fukuyama gets his third crack at a division where he’s finally unlikely to have to face his bogeyman Tanabe any longer (Tanabe won all 3 of their match-ups). Only promotion will do this time out.

Sd21 Shoji (Musashigawa) – He’s 2 for 2 so far with a perfect record, despite the fact that rival Torakio has really pushed him to the max. Now he competes to match Enho’s stellar 3 straight yusho achievement from last year. This will be a tougher challenge. Also I’m interested to see what state his hair is in when he turns up this time.

Sd47 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – There are so many Sadogatake rikishi in this division including the fabulously named Kotozensho, but this man repaid our faith as he continued his comeback from a long injury layoff last time off and again the rank here feels good for success.

Sd83 Torakio (Naruto) – Oh boy. Torakio is a fireball with massive strength and even a bit of a temper as we saw last time out after his match with Shoji, and now he takes a crack at a new division at the bottom end where anything can happen. The big question for me is whether he can run his record to 6-0 and end up running into Shoji again, though this time I expect that will depend more on Shoji. If he has been performing well in training and continuing his progress, then I think we’re going to see a BIG tournament from the Bulgarian this time.

 

Jonidan

Jd23 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – The debut in Sandanme wasn’t what we all hoped at Tachiai, but a strong tournament here may reverse his fortunes and send him back up – or close to it.

Jd41 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The 27 year old’s comeback after an extremely long layoff started well last time out as he notched 6 wins and earned a promotion. How far can he go?

Jd42 Hayashi (Fujishima) – The debut basho was mostly a success for the half-Filipino “Mike” Hayashi. His utter dismantling of the also promoted Bando (one of Izutsu’s few rikishi) was a fun watch but he won multiple matches in similar fashion and it’ll be interesting to see him come up against hopefully stronger competition.

 

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – If you liked the way that Hayashi manhandled most of the opposition in his debut, then you’re going to love Yoshoyama, who makes his bow here and has been described as “enormous” and “a beast.” He makes his debut presumably a tournament ahead of fellow hotly tipped Mongolian Byambasuren and by all accounts it’s going to be fun to watch these two climb the banzuke. I’m going to be very surprised not to see a yusho here.

Jk19 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – Another debutant rolls off the Sadogatake production line. This isn’t a pick made looking massively down the line but rather one specifically for this tournament – Kototebakari has a sizeable mass advantage over most of his twig-like competitors at the level and having breezed through maezumo, it will be interesting to see how his match with Yoshoyama goes as it will maybe even give somewhat of an indication to how the Mongolian can deal with more developed rikishi at higher levels.

Our bonus is the man at Jk24, Hattorizakura, who enters the tournament again ranked above two rikishi and looking to avoid what would be a tenth consecutive winless tournament.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Wrap-up

Above: Enho rounds off his tournament by escorting Akinohana off the dohyo.
Video c/o Asashosakari

Remember way back in September and October when we were shaking our heads in disbelief at “Wacky” Aki? How positively calm those days seem now. We took a week or so to collect ourselves following the conclusion of the unprecedented events of the Kyushu basho, but now it’s time to wrap-up our “Ones to Watch” series for 2017. Thanks to everyone who sent through kind words and their suggestions of future rikishi to follow – I think we’ll have a good list in store for Hatsu.

Results

So, how did our picks do on the whole?

Kachi-koshi: 17
Make-koshi: 3
Yusho: 🏆🏆
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu sealed his promotion to Juryo with a fine 6-1 record, justifying our selection as top pick in the Makushita ranks this time out. He’ll be ineligible for the list next time, but the much-vaunted rikishi will continue to be one to watch as he continues his progression and hopefully consolidates his place among the sekitori.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – I was somewhat hopeful that Hokaho could continue his run, having scored winning records in every other basho in 2017. However the run stops here as he slumped to a 3-4 make-koshi courtesy of a final match loss against…

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – … who sealed his kachi-koshi in the same match. Takagenji’s twin will no doubt be challenged to follow his brother’s (who has managed to hold on to his place in Juryo) progress as he’ll see himself inside the top 10 Makushita ranks for Hatsu. The question is whether he can put together the run of consistency that could see him in promotion contention by mid-2018 – his mental makeup and application have been debated somewhat within the comments section of this site.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – Despite entering the tournament at a similar pedigree (just the odd loss separating them over their careers), the strength of schedule really told here. Wakatakakage was simply out-shoved against a selection of seasoned vets at this level en route to a 3-4 make-koshi, including the eventual yusho winner Tochihiryu. Murata on the other hand was able to bulldoze his way through the middle of the pack to a very strong 6-1 record that will see him promoted above his contemporary next time out and almost certainly into the top 10 Makushita ranks.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – I felt there was a lot of spice in the Makushita 14 pairing as Jokoryu was the very last rikishi before Enho to achieve 3 consecutive 7-0 records to begin his career. With different goals at stake – Jokoryu’s late career fightback to the pro ranks, Enho’s effort to continue a blistering start to his career – both men valiantly achieved 5-2 records which will see them also placed in the Makushita top 10 in January.

It’s worth noting that Enho’s energy is absolutely remarkable, and currently his speed is the main trait that helps him overcome the massive size gaps that exist between him and most competitors. Additionally, he does a good job of keeping his opponents away from the mawashi, as once he’s locked up he’s fairly easy for larger, stronger rikishi to move around (as somewhat evidenced by his loss to the enormous Akiseyama, albeit a match where his arms rather than his belt were locked up). While he displays at times a composure beyond his years in the manner in which he dispatches much larger opponents, he also has suffered a few wild crashes off the dohyo, so we will hope that he stays healthy as he continues his development.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I got this one a bit wrong, as I picked Ichiyamamoto as a bit of a sleeper yusho pick owing to the weak strength of schedule and his absolute tear up the banzuke to this point. He will continue his progression after posting a 4-3 kachi-koshi but we will want to see more next time. He displayed some good poise, despite being smaller than many of his opponents.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – A strong performance in his Makushita debut, putting up a 5-2 kachi-koshi, the odd loss coming to…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … whose victory over Ryuko (in a match that probably could have gone either way, Nishikifuji slapping down Ryuko on the verge of being pushed out at the edge) sealed a 6-1 tournament in which both men coughed up the other losses to the promising Mongolian Kiribayama. Both Ryuko and Nishikifuji are set for strong promotions upward in January and we will continue to monitor their progress. It’s worth noting that Nishikifuji’s performance at Kyushu was a rare bright spot for the otherwise beleaguered Isegahama stable.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve rated Tanabe as the better of these two for a while, having only lost to Enho in his career entering the basho (in fairness to Fukuyama, he’d only lost to Tanabe, but he wasn’t running into Enho). This time, Enho was in another division and Tanabe repaid this faith with a solid 5-2 record that bested Fukuyama’s narrow 4 win kachi-koshi. Tanabe’s showing should be good enough to earn him a promotion, while Fukuyama will likely need to take another crack from the top of Sandanme next time out. As an aside, this is the part of the banzuke where an awful lot of rikishi’s successes are dependent about how they do against the squad from Sadogatake-beya. Both of these guys ended up facing 3 Koto-men – as did Tomokaze and Wakaichiro.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze comes up one loss short of “doing an Enho” from his first three tournaments – he dropped one match in Aki, but stormed back with a zensho (via playoff) here that solidified his credentials as a bona fide prospect. His relatively low ranking in the Sandanme division means he should end up somewhere around the magical Makushita 30 mark at which another unprecedented zensho might clinch another promotion, but it is likely based on past precedent that he’ll fall just short of this mark.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Talking of the myriad prospects of Sadogatake-beya, Kotokumazoe reinforces his credentials after his lengthy absence from the banzuke with a third straight solid tournament. His 5 win record should fire him up another 30-35 positions next time out.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – There’s no getting around that it was a disappointing debut at Sandanme level for the Texan, who has vowed to do better next time out. While his 1 win performance in the final basho of the year was not what he or his fans were hoping for, we are excited to see him continue his progression and hopefully solidify his credentials upon his return to Jonidan where he has already shown solid skill in several previous tournaments this year.

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – It’s a second straight yusho for Wakaichiro’s stablemate, who will swap places with the Tachiai-favorite in January as he earns an automatic promotion that will see him placed somewhere between Sd20-30. As we noted in our lower division yusho wrap-up, Shoji sealed the deal with a final match win over Torakio with whom he is developing a nice little rivalry.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – Torakio may yet get another chance to avenge his second straight yusho race defeat to Shoji at Hatsu, as his 6 win record will more than likely be enough to get him up to Sandanme (the last time it wasn’t from his level was 1975). So while they’ll likely work from opposite ends of the division, one wouldn’t bet against the big and strong Bulgarian getting matched up with Shoji again should both men dominate in their step up.

For Sumidagawa, Torakio’s massive stablemate, the goal at Hatsu will be consolidation and further progression after he netted a 4-3 kachi-koshi which some Tachiai commenters mentioned might be the height of his ambition with respect to his more esteemed aforementioned colleague.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – 27 year old Amatsu turned in a fine performance on his comeback to the dohyo after nearly 3 years away. He only suffered one blemish, with a 6 win record that will see him comfortably promoted in his effort to make it back to the Makushita ranks. As I remarked last time, it was disappointing not to see him matched up with the yusho winner Kotoseigo given they were only placed 2 spots apart on the banzuke.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Speaking of solid performances, top debutant “Mike” Hayashi turned in a 6-1 record, his sole loss coming to the yusho winner Kotoseigo. He will be promoted at Hatsu and we will continue to monitor his progress. He will likely be replaced as our “top debutant to watch” at Hatsu by much vaunted Mongolian Yoshoyama of Tokitsukaze-beya.

Finally, while we don’t technically list Hattorizakura of Shikihide-beya as “one to watch,” we certainly will continue to look for his results, and unfortunately he put up his ninth straight 0-7 tournament at Kyushu. This tournament saw him do what I guess we can call a reverse Futabayama, as he has passed the legendary Yokozuna’s run of 63 and run his loss streak now to 67 consecutive losses (his second loss this time out, against the debutant Takita, was particularly heartbreaking as it looked like a sure win until he got Aminishiki’d at the edge). Here’s an interesting stat if you’re a Hattorizakura fan: only 16 other rikishi have managed to stay on the banzuke while not winning for seven consecutive tournaments (without going banzuke-gai). All of the other 16 were kyujo at some point, though a few did put up legitimate winless tournaments over that period. The great Yokozuna Takanohana II is a member of that list in the injury-addled latter stages of his career, so I guess Hattorizakura can at least say they have that in common!

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Midpoint

Enho
What’s cooler than being cool? Enho

Whew! The final honbasho of the year has been extremely exciting so far, with an incredible amount of activity in the makuuchi ranks both on and off the dohyo. We’re at the midway point in the tournament, and that means it’s time to check in on this tournament’s Ones to Watch! Thanks for everyone who’s shared their opinions and thoughts on this feature and the lower division rikishi that they are tracking as well.

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Having dropped his day 7 bout to co-leader Asabenkei, Turbold is going to have to press the Turbo button (… I’ll get my coat) if he wants to make it to Juryo for Hatsu 2018. While his one loss almost certainly rules him out of the yusho race, winning out would leave him with a 6 win record, and the last time a 6-1 result from Ms4 wasn’t good enough for promotion to Juryo was 1962. 5 wins could also be enough, but much less likely, as Takagenji experienced earlier this year, as it only positioned him at Ms1 in the following basho.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – Having put up five straight kachi-kochi winning records, I was intrigued to see whether Hokaho could continue that run and position himself near the top of the Makushita banzuke ahead of January’s Hatsu basho. It’s going to be a tough run as he’s already dropped 3 matches while not looking particularly poised (though his win over Tochimaru, confirmed via monoii, was engaging sumo). He’ll take on the enormous Takaryu on Day 9.

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – Mixed results so far for Takagenji’s “elder” twin, going 2-2. He’s dropped matches to two other “ones to watch” in Enho and Wakatakakage. He’ll be looking for at least two more wins from here to position him inside the top 10 ranks in January.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – These two have more or less mirrored each other’s trajectory and one odd win last time out explains the difference in their ranking. It’s possible Wakatakakage’s 2-2 record reflects the difficulty Murata might have at the same level, but he’s crushed it en route to a 4-0 record so far owing to the less esteemed nature of his competition. He’ll take on the similarly undefeated Chiyonoumi on Day 9 to see if he can enhance his yusho credentials.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – As we’ve mentioned a couple times now, there was some extra spice to this basho for both men – Jokoryu is attempting to fight his way back up to Juryo while undefeated Enho saw his route to continuing his stellar record run through the last man to achieve three consecutive 7-0 basho to start his career. Jokoryu showed Enho who was boss on day 1, ending that 21 win streak, but Enho has bounced back with 3 more wins and finds himself on the cusp of another bump up the rankings, especially if he can finish strongly as he can expect to avoid significant yusho challengers from here as the schedulers start to pit the undefeated rikishi against one another. Jokoryu, meanwhile, has also put up another pair of wins and we can likely expect to see him in the top 10 for Hatsu as well.

Thanks to frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari for posting the video of Enho displaying some amazing resilience in his bout against the much larger Takayoshitoshi:

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He entered this tournament having started his career 25-3 and has continued in much the same vein, starting 3-1, having only dropped a match to the undefeated aforementioned Chiyonoumi. He has continued his impressive and composed brand of oshi-zumo, and his Day 2 win against Gochozan was a great come-from-behind win.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another to start 3-1, it seems we’ve picked a lot of “nearly men” this time out. His sole loss also came to an undefeated rikishi in the Mongolian Kiribayama to start the tournament, but he has come back strong and takes on Isegahama’s Midorifuji on Day 9, another rikishi who has started his career strongly and who will be a good challenge.

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – It’s another 3-1 start and another man who Kiribayama knocked out of meaningful contention. He takes on Shosei on Day 9 as both men go for their kachi-koshi – an interesting challenger for a young rikishi in so much as he is very experienced at the level and is a year removed from fighting at the top end of the division.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve taken a bit of flak on the comment threads here for calling these guys out as having a bit of false rankings, on the back of the fact that Fukuyama simply started in Jonokuchi from a higher position and they’ve had identical records since, albeit with Tanabe beating Fukuyama each time. This time that has borne out – while both men have run into a glut of Sadogatake rikishi who have flooded this level of the banzuke, Fukuyama has stuttered to a 1-3 start while Tanabe is perfect, fighting for the first time without Enho in his way. Fukuyama takes on Sd18 Inoue on Day 9 while Tanabe will see his title credentials tested against Sd14 Kotomisen.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – The impressive young rikishi has started life in Sandanme with a perfect score, and comes up against yet another Sadogatake rikishi in the 4-0 Kotohayato on Day 9. Should both he and Tanabe prevail it’s possible we’ll see them against each other in the final days of the tournament.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Back in action in his third basho after a year out, Kotokumazoe has started very strong here with a 3-1 record that takes his career tally to 21-4.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – The man from Texas has had a tougher time of it in his debut at Sandanme level and is another man whose fixture list has been flooded by torikumi against Sadogatake rikishi – having faced three men from the same stable to start the basho! His Day 9 opponent is the equally 1-3 Kaiseijo, a 19 year old who has spent most of his time fighting at Jonidan level over the past few years and is also experiencing his highest ranking (Sandanme 91) in this basho – it should be an interesting bellwether matchup for our man at this level, at this point in his career.

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – Wakaichiro’s stablemate continues his strong career start with a 4-0 record, and will start to face yusho competitors from here on out. The first such man will be Tokiryu on Day 9, though Shoji should have too much for him if this goes according to the form book.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – If you’re curious as to whether the big Bulgarian Torakio is fighting a bit below his true talent level, have a peek at this video – again with thanks to Asashosakari:

That’s an okuritsuriotoshi or “rear lifting body slam.”

Torakio is 4-0 to start the tournament and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a rematch with Shoji for all the marbles, either on the final day or in a playoff. He takes on the light, 19 year old Suzuki on Day 9, who is probably not relishing the matchup if he’s seen that. Meanwhile, his stablemate Sumidagawa has recovered from a bonkers day 1 loss to post 3 straight wins and takes on Hamamiryu on Day 9, who’s about 11 years older and half his weight.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – The 27 year old comeback candidate has started well at 3-1, dropping his only loss to our featured Jonokuchi debutant Hayashi. He could well stay in the yusho race with one loss as there are only three undefeated rikishi left at the level and two of them fight each other on day 9. Amatsu meanwhile will deploy his years of experience against the 23 year old Mienomaru on day 9.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Our top debutant for Kyushu has made a real good go of it so far, just dropping one match in a bout that started with a matta and may well have thrown him off. We’ll keep watching to see if he’s able to finish strong and compete for the title.

And as for Hattorizakura, well, he actually had what could be described as a strong tachiai against a similarly challenged rikishi in the debutant Takita on day 4, driving his opponent back to the edge of the rice bales (this may be difficult to believe, so here’s video again care of Asashosakari), however he was then dumped unceremoniously over the edge and he continues to search for an elusive win.

Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17

enho_21
The real test awaits

We debuted the “ones to watch” feature at Aki, and I’m going to attempt to make this a regular feature before, during and after each basho. Again, I’ve picked out 20 rikishi from the bottom four divisions that I think I have interesting story lines going into the upcoming tournament. You may have other rikishi who you might think are also interesting, and I encourage you to share their stories in the comments!

Makushita

Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – The Mongolian delivered the huge basho everyone had been anticipating at the third time of asking at Aki, posting 6 wins and coming a final bout loss short of a yusho. He now finds himself 10 places higher, and despite the incredible amount of traffic and talent at the top of the Makushita ranks, a similar run of results this time out combined with favourable results elsewhere might just give him a kesho-mawashi in January.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – This might seem like an odd choice given that most of the rest of this list is going to consist of young up-and-comers, but as we’ve speculated quite a bit on the future power of Miyagino-beya on these pages, I think Hokaho will have an interesting tournament to follow. At the age of 28 he’s fighting at his joint-highest ever rank and while all of the attention has been on his exciting young stablemate (more of whom in a minute), he’s quietly racked up 5 straight kachi-koshi. Could it be not 4 but 5 sekitori from this stable by the middle of next year?

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – The wonderfully named 20 year old is another rikishi fighting at his joint-highest ranking and will be hoping for better after suffering 5 losses at Makushita 11 earlier in the year. With his twin brother Takagenji having been promoted back up to Juryo, he will no doubt be determined to prove he too can fight at a higher level.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – These two had identical records and were ranked opposite each other coming into Aki, and a win for Wakatakakage over Murata ended up being the difference maker in their records last time out. The two former university men have moved quickly and we will continue to track their progress this time out.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – Enho is of course worth tracking in his own right (as we have been doing and continue to do somewhat comprehensively and breathlessly), but his bow at Makushita level is given a bit of extra spice by the fact that his route to further advancement runs right through the last man to accomplish the three consecutive 7-0 records he has put up to start his career.

The former Komusubi Jokoryu has been making a comeback attempt after an injury-inspired tumble from the top division and has been entrenched in Makushita with varying results for much of the past year. While the goal for Enho is simply to see how many more wins he can continue to rack up from day 1 to continue his climb, Jokoryu will be looking to re-establish himself – there is so much good young talent rising up the banzuke right now that he’s in danger of running out of time to make it back to the professional ranks.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He has continued to torch the competition, running his impressive career start now to 25-3. The part of the banzuke he now finds himself at consists of many more experienced names and a few ex-sekitori who just kind of hanging on. Just like Kagamio last time out, the oshi-specialist could be a sleeper yusho candidate owing to a weaker strength of schedule.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – Another pick from last time that we will continue to follow, Ryuko (his given name) has racked up four straight strong tournaments to start his career and will likely now receive his first stern test, along with…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … the Isegahama man whose bright star has dimmed somewhat following back to back yusho to open his career, but who nevertheless has made quick work of the bottom three tiers to progress up to a Makushita debut.

Sandanme

Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I really love following these guys as their battles have all been quite good, and all won by Tanabe. And Tanabe has only suffered three defeats in his career, all coming at the hands of Enho. Of the two, Tanabe has shown himself to be more of an oshi-specialist to open his career while Fukuyama has shown somewhat of a diversity of throwing techniques (in a small sample size, admittedly). It will be interesting to see if the two rivals can continue their rise.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – He couldn’t grab a second consecutive yusho last time out, but nevertheless finds himself as the highest placed debutant at this level and we’ll want to see if he can keep moving quickly.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Having spent a year out of action, Kotokumazoe came back with back to back 6-1 records to take his career tally to 18-3 and force a promotion to Sandanme. The impressive Tomokaze is one of the only men to take him down so far.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Wakaichiro continues his progression to make his Sandanme debut in Kyushu and the whole Tachiai team will be cheering him on and covering his matches!

Jonidan

Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – I accurately predicted Wakaichiro’s stablemate for the Jonokuchi yusho last time out, and now he’ll try and make it two out of two.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – These men won’t face each other, but have one thing in common which is that they’ve both only been beaten twice and on all four of those occasions it was by Shoji. Now that they should be clear of him (barring a playoff or final day matchup), we may get to see if these guys can make a run at the yusho with an easier schedule.

Jonokuchi

Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – A 27 year old in Jonokuchi really shouldn’t be that interesting, but it is when he was last seen in competitive action over two and a half years ago in the middle of the Makushita rankings. Add into the mix that this is a man who’s put dirt on makuuchi regulars Chiyoshoma, Chiyomaru and Takanoiwa, and you’d expect that he’d not only make quick work of the bottom divisions but also challenge for the yusho.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – With only one spot left, it’s got to go to the bespectacled 19 year old Mike Hayashi who’s apparently been called the “next Takayasu” owing to his Filipino heritage. He’s going to get the nod over Chiganoura’s Hakuho-approved Yuriki owing to having beaten him in maezumo and starting as the top debutant. Both of their matches against Amatsu should be interesting.

Obviously, we will always monitor the progress and pour out a sake for Hattorizakura, whose run at avoiding historic futility continues from Jk24 where he will attempt to dodge a 9th consecutive 0-7 record and score a second career win in 80+ attempts against the new batch of recruits. You have to feel for the two guys ranked below him.

Aki: Wrapping up the “Ones to Watch”

Enho

Many thanks to the readers of the blog who have mentioned that they liked digging into the interesting rikishi making their way through the lower reaches of the banzuke. We’ll look to make this a regular feature: picking a selection of guys who are interesting for some reason ahead of the basho, catching up with their progress midway through, and then seeing whether those story lines continued after the conclusion of the basho.

Of course, for many, many rikishi down in the lower divisions, the road is “long and winding” and their progress cannot be judged on one tournament alone. So, some rikishi will be featured next time out, while other rikishi with interesting stories may replace some of the crop from Aki 2017. Either way, I’ll be trying to keep it at around 20 rikishi per tournament and I look forward to Tachiai readers sharing stories of the lower division rikishi that they are following, as well.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – I had been very bullish on Kizaki, a rikishi who had never fallen to a make-koshi before Aki. However, the streak will always end somewhere and it ended at Ms3, so Kizaki will need to take a step back and we won’t see him in Juryo until at least Haru, barring a zensho next time out. Unfortunately, a very strong group of opponents provided a stern learning curve. Although he did beat a Juryo opponent in the demotion-bound Kitaharima, he couldn’t repeat the trick against Yago in his final bout and ended up 3-4.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu has been much hyped and delivered his best result yet, with a 6-1 record that should see him near the top end of the Makushita listings in Kyushu. Again barring a zensho yusho (which is possible given that he only coughed up the yusho on his final bout, to the eventual winner), he’ll likely need a couple more strong tournaments and it may be March at the earliest that we’d see him as a sekitori.

Ms16 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – These two had identical career records all the way until day 10 of this tournament, and had been quick movers, starting out their careers 18-3 over their first three tournaments. Wakatakakage finished the Aki basho 4-3 to Murata’s 3-4, the difference effectively coming down to their head to head on day 1.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – Ikegawa started his career strong and I picked this as a bellwether tournament to see whether he could continue his recent progress at the level, which had slowed considerably. Ikegawa took another backward step here en route to a 3-4 record.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – I loved the story of this rikishi coming back from a very long layoff to force his way up the banzuke and to a career high in Nagoya. This was his second chance to establish himself in the third tier but he looks to have passed up the opportunity, going 3-4.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The past few paragraphs make for grim reading, but here’s another pick we got right: Ichiyamamoto is a former university man who has absolutely cruised through the divisions so far and he’s set for another big promotion after a 6-1 record that saw him react to a second-bout loss to another yusho challenger in Asakoki by rattling off 5 straight wins.

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji started his career with a pair of zensho yusho and looked to be a fast mover but he’s found the Sandanme division tougher to negotiate. He’s still impressively made it through in no more than 4 tournaments, and will fight in the third tier for the powerhouse Isegahama-beya in Kyushu, having notched another 4-3 record this time out.

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – I liked Ryuko as it seemed he was fighting below his level when compared to his more esteemed counterparts in Wakatakakage and Murata. This was confirmed as he cruised to a 5-2 that will probably see him promoted, having coughed up both losses to extremely difficult opponents – the first to the next man on this list and the second to Makushita yusho-challenger Asakoki.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – The young rockstar of Miyagino-beya takes the yusho in some style after winning the only lower division playoff of this tournament. While his career record officially starts 21-0 after a remarkable three consecutive zensho yusho in the three bottom divisions, adding in playoffs and Maezumo you can consider it 25 consecutive wins to open his career. Given where the past several Sandanme champions have landed on the following banzuke, we will likely see him well inside the top half of the division and probably somewhere around Makushita 15-20 for Kyushu. Were he to repeat the trick again, he’d be Juryo bound in time for Hatsu but it will likely take him a few tournaments to cope with the jump in competition.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – Going into this tournament the incredible stat here was that Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe, who in turn had only ever lost to Enho. And after they posted identical 6-1 records yet again, nothing has changed. Fukuyama coughed up his sole defeat to Tanabe on Day 6, while the schedulers threw the 6-0 Tanabe up against the 6-0 Enho for their final scheduled bouts and, well, you know the rest. The cool thing is that we are getting to see some nice rivalries develop. These guys should both be pushing for promotion from somewhere around Sandanme 5-15 next time out. I’ve taken lumps before for asking minor questions of the NSK on the banzuke, but it will be incredible if they continue to rank Fukuyama above Tanabe next time.

Here’s Enho’s spirited zensho clinching win over the larger Tanabe (who will need to work on his Hatakikomi technique):

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively, our main man Wakaichiro posted another kachi-koshi with a 4-3 record, and will find himself up a division in Sandanme next time out. Congratulations Wakaichiro!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze held the Jonokuchi yusho and I’m always interested to follow rikishi who can repeat the trick. He turned out not to be one of them as he coughed up an early loss, but should find himself comfortably promoted to the fourth tier in Fukuoka and will have a chance to continue to challenge for honors.

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I loved this battle of first timers on the banzuke. My pre-basho pick for the yusho was Shoji and he indeed delivered a zensho for his first career title. Torakio was the one man I thought might be able to stop him and he really came close, just losing their head to head and finishing 6-1. These guys may sweep all comers again in Jonidan, so we’ll continue to track their respective progress. Torakio, a rare Bulgarian rikishi, will no doubt attract interest – and here he is knocking off stubborn Jk1 Fukuazuma on his final bout:

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – I called this the fight for futility and these two continued to deliver. Hattorizakura put up a remarkable 8th consecutive 0-7 tournament that leaves the enthusiast rooted to the bottom of the banzuke, and it will be interesting if the NSK ranks him above any newcomers at all next time out. I really want this guy to put together a nice run of results and at least get a promotion to Jonidan at some point in his career – perhaps a run of fixtures against a handful of 15 year olds at some point will see him someday get those magical 4 wins. As for Sawanofuji, his 2-5 record was artificially propped up by a fusen win. Whether he can muster a win against anyone not named Hattorizakura again, we’ll have to wait until November to find out.

Conclusion

Of the 18 competitive rikishi we picked this time out, we saw 12 kachi-koshi against 6 make-koshi (I’m not counting Hattorizakura and Sawanofuji), and yusho winners in 2 of the 4 divisions. I’m fairly happy with a 67% hit rate – while the goal isn’t simply to pick winners but interesting narratives, continued success and progress up the banzuke is certainly a part of the story. We’ll continue to follow a number of these guys, as well as add in some interesting stories next time out.

Thanks to YouTube’s incredible “One & Only” for the videos as ever.