Wakatakakage ACL Surgery Complete: Begins 8+ Months Rehab

Thanks to Herouth for Tweeting out this good/bad news about Wakatakakage. Readers may recall that he was injured entering the final weekend of Haru basho when his knee hit the tawara resulting in an ACL tear. He has had surgery and begins the long road to recovery. He’ll likely drop only to Komusubi for May, but deep into Makuuchi for Nagoya, Juryo for Aki, and Makushita by Kyushu. If he comes back in January, he’ll likely still be in Makushita but maybe Sandanme if recovery takes until Spring. There’s the bad news.

The good news here is in the sentiment expressed by Arashio-oyakata (moto-Sokokurai). “He says he does not want to come back before he is fully healed, and I’m not going to make him.”

Obviously, Terunofuji and his storybook comeback stands as a reference point. His rise culminated in not only multiple yusho but promotion to Yokozuna. Tochinoshin and Ura were also able to come back from serious injuries which resulted in substantial demotions. More recent comeback stories have been of a disciplinary nature as Abi and Ryuden successfully re-established themselves in Makuuchi and Asanoyama is on his way back up. We see here multiple recent examples of rapid, successful comebacks and wonder if there’s been a change in the calculus of how to manage serious injury.

That said, along with Terunofuji’s comeback we have to remember, and question, the wisdom of his slow fall. He was obviously hurt as Ozeki but continued to try to compete, basho after basho. Always the competitor, it’s got to be hard to admit that you have to sit on the sidelines — especially when it’s for multiple tournaments. Even now, with the fact that he is safe from demotion, is a May return too soon? We can’t question Isegahama’s commitment to Terunofuji as he stuck with him through that comeback. But with the statements from Wakatakakage and Arashio-oyakata, we see a stark contrast with the actions of Terunofuji and Isegahama-oyakata and can’t help but wonder whether Terunofuji’s rise may have been faster, and if his Yokozuna reign would have been longer, if they’d shared a similar point-of-view.

There’s certainly risks, though, and we cannot downplay them. Hokuozan’s injury in Naruto-beya was re-aggravated in training and he has fallen completely off the banzuke. Hokuozan, however, never reached the heights of Makuuchi. The real contrast is in Ishiura’s neck injury has taken him from heyagashira and likely ended his career. A neck, though, is not exactly a knee-ligament, though. So there is the chance that Wakatakakage will not be back but it is refreshing to see a commitment from both the wrestler and the oyakata to give this route a try, rather than to tough it out and witness the alternative of another slow, painful decline.

Arashio-beya Corona Cluster

We open the New Year with an expanding cluster of positive Covid tests at Arashio-beya. News of Wakatakakage falling ill hit yesterday, leading to testing of those around him, in his family, and at the stable. Those additional tests have come back with a total of eleven more positive tests. Arashio-oyakata and Wakatakakage’s Juryo-ranked brother, Wakamotoharu, are among the positive cases. Eight more wrestlers ranked makushita and below, as well as a hair dresser have also tested positive. Of the twelve, three are symptomatic with things like fever but are so far mild cases. Tachiai wishes all twelve full and quick recoveries.

Birthday conundrum: the answer

Today is Wakatakakage Atsushi’s birthday!

Happy birthday, Wakatakakage Atsushi!

Indeed, Wakatakakage started is career benefitting from the sandanme tsukedashi system. He quickly rose through the ranks and reached juryo in May 2018. He nicely settled there, and entered sumo’s top division nine tournaments later, in November 2019.

His record there is unique: he stayed undefeated the first four days, but left the dohyo limping, after having defeated Terutsuyoshi. He did not show up on day 5, and ended up the basho with a 4-1-10 record. Demotion resulted, despite having not lost one single bout on the dohyo!

The only rikishi having achieved something similar is Towanoyama, who gave a fusen loss on day 1 in March 2002. He also returned straight back to juryo following his makuuchi debut, but did not win or show up at all.

Going back to Wakatakakage – he’s the youngest Onami brother, from Arashio beya. Earlier this year, we celebrated Wakamotoharu’s birthday. In case you wonder, the third brother, Wakatakamoto, is born on December 29th!

Wakatakakage is born on December the 6th of 1994. Happy birthday!

Happy Birthday, Wakamotoharu!

Today is Wakamotoharu’s 27th birthday. Happy birthday, Wakamotoharu!

He was born in Fukushima, and belongs to Arashio stable.

For the record, the juryo rikishi is one of the Onami brothers – his real name is Onami Minato.

Last basho left me quite disappointed, as I wished him to break through makuuchi. After several years spent in makushita, Wakamotoharu finally reached the sekitori ranks, got relegated twice, and eventually looked to establish himself for good in sumo’s second highest division. He actually got his highest rank in Aki 2020, namely juryo 3. Unfortunately, he could not make it – for now – to the highest division, failing to reach makuuchi with a 6-9 make koshi.

Wakamotoharu Minato

Hopefully, he’ll do it in 2021!

I spoke about the Onami brothers – Wakamotoharu actually has one older brother, and one younger bro.

The oldest Onami brother is argubly the least known of the three, namely Wakatakamoto – Onami Wataru is his real name, and will turn 29 in December the 29th. The family’s oldest bro couldn’t reach the sekitori ranks, even if he came quite close in 2018: then ranked at his best, makushita 7, Wakatakamoto couldn’t follow with a kachi koshi, and ended up 2-5 instead. He is currently ranked makushita 22, from where he will slightly slide down the banzuke, following a 3-4 make koshi.

The youngest Onami brother is also the most successful one, and the most famous: Wakatakakage Atsushi!

Establishing himself as a new makuuchi force? Wakatakakage Atsushi

Wakatakakage is notably known for his paradoxical makuuchi debut, back in November 2019. The youngest Onami brother was actually the only rikishi to compete in makuuchi and not to lose one single bout on the dohyo! Sadly, an injury prevented him from competing from day 5, and he ended 4-1-10 – after having won his four first bouts.

He showed glimpses of his talent during the first days, and it was clear it was not the only time we would see him causing headhaches in sumo’s first division. Indeed, he came back in makuuchi after two basho, and got back to back double digit wins: 10-5 in July, 11-4 in September! He’ll turn 26 also in December, the 6th.

But today’s attention is focused on the family’s second born child: once again, happy birthday, Onami Minato!