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.