Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17


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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.