Sumo debates for 2020 – 2/3

6. Will Terunofuji compete in maku’uchi in 2020 ? Where will he end up this year ?

The nostalgic question. If Tochinoshin produced the mother of all comebacks back in 2014, rising again from makushita to maku’uchi, Terunofuji’s remarkable comeback is a very impressive one. Still an ozeki in September 2017, he started 2018 as a maegashira 10, lasted two bashos in juryo, and, after finally taking care of his health, went as low as jonidan 48 in March 2019. He just lost three bouts during his return to the salaried ranks, which he achieved at the end of the past year.

Terunofuji’s return has been even more impressive that he stayed weakened. Pictures were circulating on social medias, with Terunofuji’s knees horribly taped. He only managed to do suri-ashi by the end of 2019 – which should significantly improve his chances.

Is he back ? Former ozeki Terunofuji

Many followers – myself included – have fantasied about the former ozeki’s return. Will he return to maku’uchi ? Will he, incredibly, regain his ozeki rank, as prophetized by Murray Johnson ? Or will his progress be halted ?

Herouth answers this question cautiously. Will that change, with the Mongolian’s condition having improved ? Terunofuji set his aim: reaching maku’uchi before the Olympics.

My prediction: it’s hard going against my inner wishes. I’d be foolish, though, not hearing Herouth’s wisdom. I’d say Terunofuji to finish the year in juryo after a stint in maku’uchi.

7. Where will Ichinojo finish the year ?

Makushita or below / juryo / maku’uchi (maegashira) / maku’uchi (san’yaku)

Another question related to injury issues. Ichinojo’s talent is obvious. After a good 2018 year (five tournaments spent in san’yaku), the Mongolian started 2019 equally well – two kinboshi despite a 6-9 record in January, and a career best 14-1 in March led people believe he’d start an ozeki run.

However, Ichinojo’s strength caused him serious back problems – his weight rose up to 230 kg. He had to sit out of the Kyushu basho after having finished the Aki basho with a 1-4-10 record. As a consequence, he will start the new year sitting deep at juryo 7.

I can’t help but have depressing thoughts of a crossed interview of then newbies Ichinojo and Terunofuji in 2014, as they set up a “race” between them towards ozeki promotion. If Terunofuji achieved that feat, they now find themselves together, sadly, in juryo, more than five years later.

Back to fitness ? Ichinojo Takashi

Hopefully, Ichinojo will be rolling back the years. Having lost 24 kg, his weight will appear close to the one he had in 2014, when he got promoted to maku’uchi.

My prediction: I see him back to the maegashira ranks.

8. Will Enho stay in maku’uchi in 2020 ?

A provocative question. Enho is a crowd favorite, and did wonders in 2019. He started the past year at juryo 8, and will start the current one at a career best maegashira 5. He displayed a great variety of techniques, and finished the year with three straight kachi koshi. In his whole career, Enho just had two make kochi – one in juryo in March 2018, and one during his maku’uchi debut in May 2019.

The question is, of course, related to his weight. So far, it is tempting to say that weighing less than 100 kg has been more of an asset than a weakness for him.

Nevertheless, Enho will have some issues to face: will he be able to maintain his impressive form? The crowd favorite started using more deliberate henka’s during the last tournament of 2019. Will he be able to renew his range of techniques, and will he be able to surprise again his opponents ? Or will the surprise effect vanish, and will he slide back to juryo ?

Currently at career best maegashira 5 : Enho Akira

Comparison has been made with former wrestler Mainoumi, who was about the same size as Enho, and had a successful maku’uchi career from 1991 to 1998, being as high as komosubi. True, the average size of rikishi has increased since…

Another example, former Czech wrestler Takanoyama, was less successful back in 2012. He was able to stay in the top division during four tournaments, that year (and in September of 2011, too).

My prediction: Enho’s techniques will continue to work, in the middle of an injury prone field. After a san’yaku stint, he’ll end up safely in maegashira ranks.

9. Will Takakeisho win a second yusho in 2020 ?

I believe Takakeisho’s picture of 2018’s rising star needs an update. Last year, the ozeki was seen as the future of sumo and a possible future yokozuna, assuming he could adapt his variety of techniques. He finished that year on a bang, clinching his first yusho in Kyushu.

Ozeki Takakeisho Mitsunobu

Twelve months later, the picture has changed. His ozeki promotion had to wait until the last day of the March tournament, with decreasing results – 13-2, 11-4 and 10-5. He sustained a first serious injury on his knee, which hampered further steps, and even cost him the newly acquired rank. He went back strongly during the Aki basho, where he was defeated during a playoff, injuring himself on his chest in the process.

Will he bounce back in 2020 ? Can his knees sustain so much weight ?

I express doubts concerning the latter question, and would answer no.

Terunofuji Practicing…Judo?

Terunofuji Recovery

Lately, Terunofuji’s Instagram photos have largely come from the weight room. Monday he shared some pics and a few video clips of him sparring with Fukuoka Daigaku judoka. This is a fantastic development as he will need to dramatically expand his tool kit to bring himself back to the top ranks.

Terunofuji’s rise was very quick, based on a no-nonsense, take no prisoners, Kaiju mode where he would simply overpower nearly all opponents. Here, he defeated Mr. Sky Crane, himself, Tochinoshin. This was on his way to winning the makuuchi Yusho in May of 2015.

However, less than a year after the Yusho and his Ozeki promotion, knee injuries began to nag him, hobbling hopes of more yusho and muting earlier Yokozuna chatter. In an early career of epic yotsu battles, including bouts against Ichinojo and Osunaarashi, below, took their toll.

As much as we loved Kaiju, we would love to see Terunofuji back in the Big Leagues in any form. To get back, he will have to adapt and training with judo wrestlers will hopefully provide new emphasis on grappling techniques to lessen the strain on his knees.

After compiling data from the SumoDB, we can see from his position near the top ranks of Makushita, he will likely need a yusho to jump that Juryo threshold. I’ve not updated the data since the end of the September basho so he has already inched closer to that red line. The recent ranks (blue tick marks) are based on the September data and do not reflect the latest banzuke release. The grey bars represent the wrestlers’ highest positions.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 11

With all of the chaos in the top divisions, Makuuchi AND Juryo, it’s often nice to remember there’s a whole slew of other bouts among the junior divisions. Yes, I’m clutching at straws here but I need something to look forward to now that the Hakuho/Takayasu bout won’t happen. My man Kaisei is facing Juryo…my man Ikioi is facing Makushita…and as Uncle Sumo…しかし!

Jonokuchi

Herouth has been keeping us on top of the yusho races down here and Naruto Oyakata, the dashing former Kotooshu, has certainly gotten himself a bumper crop of youngsters dominating the Jonokuchi yusho. Marusho leads the division as he had his sixth bout last night, winning against Minami of Tatsunami beya. Sadly, I have not been able to find the bout.

As wrestlers from the same heya (or father) cannot face each other during the tournament until the playoff, schedulers can’t have Sakurai face-off against Motobayashi tonight and then have the winner battle Marusho.

Jonidan

Homarefuji has a great chance at winning the Jonidan yusho with a dominating win over Hitenryu. He sure has the poise and confidence of a sekitori, even just going through his prebout routine in this video from the Japan Sumo Channel. But when the time comes to put the fists to the ground, he nearly bowls Hitenryu straight over backwards.

One of the men he may need to face in the coming days is Adachi, on the right in the montage below, picking up his sixth win against Ooba.

Sandanme

In SandanmeI only have the end of Wakaichiro’s bout for us. With the oshidashi victory, Wakaichiro is 3-3 and will be fighting for his kachi-koshi.

Makushita

In Makushita, Hoshoryu faced Oguruma beya’s Nogami, both 3-2 coming in and fighting for kachi-koshi. Nogami engaged directly, and effectively, using that extra mass to drive Hoshoryu to the edge. Hoshoryu arrests their backward movement with his left foot on the bales but he is high and tries to reach over Nogami’s back with the right hand.

Nogami prefers a yotsu bout and locks the dragon up with both hands inside. Once that left hand came in and secured a belt grip, he pretty much lifted Hoshoryu up and out. Yoritaoshi. With the win, Nogami is looking to secure himself a spot in the Makushita joi.

Hoshoryu will need to win his next one to have any hope of snagging a vacant spot in Juryo. His opportunity may have slammed shut as Seiro has already locked up one slot and Irodori will be eyeing another. Seiro picked up that kachi koshi today against Kaisho. Kaisho went far too low, allowing Seiro time to grab the mawashi with his right hand as he backed away, finishing with an uwatenage. With the poll position at Ms1, Seiro’s promotion is a lock for picking up the position Akiseyama will leave behind.

Akua got a taste of Juryo last year and wants to return. Coming into today, he was a solid 5-0 and had his own designs on a coveted position in the makushita joi. However, he was shown the door by Tsurubayashi who used one of my favorite kimarite. This okuritaoshi had a shokkiri routine feel to it the way Akua tumbled out, head over heels, and Tsurubayashi’s right leg comes up…perfectly aimed to give him the old boot. But it’s probably a good thing for that restraint as the fall was a hard one.

And let us pause now and thank Herouth. :)

And then let’s thank her again for adding this about the Terunofuji/Roga bout. I swear I meant to do it. Cross my heart…

Thanks for covering for me!

But… but… how could you skip the Terunofuji vs. Roga bout!

Roga sure would have wished that Futagoyama oyakata had skipped it, though. His master gave him a public shaming on Twitter today for this bout.

Today Roga from my heya had a match with former Ozeki Terunofuji. Terunofuji’s physical fitness is still far from perfect, but Roga was utterly beaten, and his sumo was bad at that. Well, that’s Roga’s actual power at the moment. Guys who were in the same year in school with him are in the banzuke joi. It was pointless to have taken him with me for degeiko. If he keeps this up I have zero expectations of him.

Thank you, Herouth!