Who’s That Rikishi #12: Ichinojo Takashi


Age: 24
Birth Name: Altankhuyag Ichinnorow
Home Town: Arkhangai, Mongolia
Stable: Minato
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

While most sumo fans like to imagine the boulder-sized Ichinojo rolling down a mountain and onto the dohyo to do sumo, the truth is that he was born on the beautiful plains of Arkhangai province, Mongolia. While far from the first Mongolian to enter Japan’s national sport, he was the first of his countrymen from a nomadic clan to join sumo. As a boy, he took part in traditional Mongolian wrestling called Bokh, going so far as to win his provinces Bokh championship when he was 14 years old. Moving to Japan for high school, Ichinojo initially practiced Judo until the school’s sumo coach convinced him to join his team. The young Mongolian went on to win five titles and the rank of amateur Yokozuna. His success caught the attention of Minato Beya, who recruited Ichinojo in 2013, making him their one allotted foreign-born rikishi. Due to his amateur Yokozuna title, Ichinojo was allowed to skip the bottom two divisions and debut in Makushita, making him the second foreign-born rikishi to do so. Upon debuting he automatically became the highest ranked member of his stable, as none of his stablemates were ranked higher than Sandanme. Ichinojo’s first official tournament in January 2014 was a huge success and marked the beginning of a meteoric rise up the banzuke for the young Boulder.

By May of that same year, he burst into the Juryo Division, having only lost two bouts in his career thus far. Despite the drastic increase in competition, Ichinojo held his own in Juryo and won the division Yusho in a four-way playoff. He nearly captured his second consecutive Juryo Yusho at the following Nagoya Basho, but fell to Tochinoshin in a playoff bout. Nevertheless, his 13-2 record was more than enough to warrant a promotion, and in September he made his Makuuchi debut at the rank of Maegashira 10. Like previous Honbasho, Ichinojo mowed through the competition, collecting six straight wins until a Day 7 loss to Ikioi. This turned out to be just a minor set back for the young Mongolian, who quickly returned to his winning ways. As the tournament progressed, Ichinojo began facing stronger opponents much higher up on the banzuke. However, even they couldn’t stop him. Having defeated both Ozeki Kisenosato and Goeido and Yokozuna Kakuryu, Ichinojo was matched up with Hakuho on Day 14, but he was unable to beat the Boss. Finishing in second place with a record of 13-2, Ichinojo was awarded both the fighting spirit and outstanding performance special prizes, and his rank was elevated all the way to Sekiwake for the following tournament.

Perhaps a symptom of the increased media attention and fanfare following his success in September, Ichinojo developed a bad case of shingles during the lead up to the 2014 Kyushu Basho. Unable to practice for much of the inter-Basho period, he failed to replicate the impressive numbers he had posted at Aki but managed to hold on to his Sekiwake rank with an 8-7 record. He was not so lucky at the 2015 Hatsu Basho. Recording only six wins, the young Boulder dropped out of San’yaku. An impressive showing in March and May, including a kinboshi victory over Harumafuji, resulted in Ichinojo regaining his Sekiwake rank for the 2015 Nagoya Basho. This tournament would prove disastrous for the Mongolian Rikishi, and he finished with a record of 4-11 and once again joined the Maegashira rank and fillers. Having firmly established himself as a Makuuchi mainstay, Ichinojo spent much of 2016 alternating between winning and losing records, until a herniated disk forced him to miss the Aki Basho. This injury, most likely a symptom of his ballooning mass, prompted the nearly 500 pound Mongolian rikishi to begin reducing his weight. Upon returning, the much lighter Ichinojo picked up right where he left off and continued flip-flopping between kachi koshi and make koshi. At the 2017 Kyushu Basho, Ichinojo scored double-digit wins for the first time in well over a year, when he finished the tournament with a 10-5 record and a gold star victory over Kisenosato. Building on his Bokh wrestling background, Ichinojo is a fierce belt wrestler, and his favorite grip is a right hand inside, left hand outside migi-yotsu. His preferred winning maneuver is the yorikiri forceout.


Ichinojo (left) vs. Ikioi (right), Aki Basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=12107
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/3498/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichinoj%C5%8D_Takashi

Who’s That Rikishi #11: Chiyonokuni Toshiki


Age: 27
Birth Name: Toshiki Sawada
Home Town: Iga, Japan
Stable: Kokonoe
Highest Rank: Maegashira 1

Chiyonokuni Toshiki was born the son of a Buddhist priest in the city of Iga, Mie Prefecture, Japan. As a child, he had a keen interest in martial arts and dreamed of becoming a professional rikishi. After graduating high school, Chiyonokuni entered Kokonoe Beya and began learning the art of sumo from former Dai Yokozuna turned Oyakata, Chiyonofuji. His first official tournament was the 2006 Nagoya Basho, where he recorded an impressive 6-1 record and secured a promotion to the Jonidan division. His Jonidan debut would have to wait, however, as an injury sidelined the young rikishi right before the Aki Basho, costing him his promotion. Returning to action in time for the 2006 Kyushu Basho, Chiyokuni won back his spot in Jonidan with another kachi-koshi and was well on his way to the Makushita division in mid-2007 when he was injured again and missed the Nagoya Basho. This would become something of a pattern for Chiyonokuni; getting ever so close to a promotion only to get hurt and have to start over again.

His fortunes changed in March of 2009 when Chiyonokuni returned from injury for the fourth time in his young career and took the Jonidan yusho. This victory marked the beginning of a hot streak for Chiyo, who quickly rose up through the ranks and established himself as a Makushita mainstay by March 2010. Following the match-fixing scandal, Chiyonokuni was elevated to the upper ranks of Makushita and eventually the Juryo division in early 2011, despite not posting spectacular records. Like many rikishi in his generation, he had become a benefactor of several top spots being vacated by rikishi involved in the scandal. One such disgraced rikishi was his fellow stablemate, Chiyohakuho. When asked about Chiyohakuho’s expulsion from the sport and his subsequent promotion as a result of the scandal, Chiyonokuni remarked that he didn’t know how to feel about the situation. Taking full advantage of the circumstances, the young man from Iga put together an impressive string of winning records that saw him break into the top Makuuchi division at the 2012 Hatsu Basho. His stay in the top division was short-lived, as a dislocated shoulder forced him to miss parts of Hatsu and Haru and all of the Natsu tournament. Chiyo returned to Juryo for the 2012 Nagoya Basho, where he took the yusho and soon won his way back to Makuuchi by November. Chiyonokuni spent the next two years in and out of the top division, until an injury at the 2014 Aki basho saw him withdraw from competition on day 8. This injury caused him to miss the following two tournaments, plummeting Chiyonokuni all the way back to the Sandanme division.

Unperturbed by this massive demotion, Chiyonokuni began his treck back to Makuuchi by taking the Sandanme division yusho with a perfect 7-0 record at the 2015 Haru Basho. This marked the beginning of an impressive comeback for the young rikishi, which culminated in his second Juryo championship in May of 2016 and a return to the Makuuchi division, where he has remained to this day. At the 2017 Natsu Basho, Choyonokuni debuted at a career-high rank of Maegashira 1. Despite picking up his first kinboshi victory over Yokozuna Kakuryu, the rest of the tournament was a disaster for Chiyo, and he finished with a dreadful 2-13 record. He bounced back from this poor performance with two consecutive kachi-koshi in July and September but failed to secure eight wins November. 2017 also marked a significant milestone in the life of Chiyonokuni, who married his longtime girlfriend Ai Hayashi, whom he met seven years prior. Chiyonokuni is primarily an oshi-zumo or “pusher-thruster” practitioner. Because of his relatively small size, he employs tsukiotoshi thrust downs and hatakikomi slap downs to take his larger opponents off their feet.


Chiyonokuni (left) vs. Kaisei (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6642
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/2938/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiyonokuni_Toshiki

Who’s That Rikishi #10: Asanoyama Hideki


Age: 23
Birth Name: Hiroki Ishibashi
Home Town: Toyama Prefecture, Japan
Stable: Takasago
Highest Rank: Maegashira 11

When it came to sports, sumo was not Asanoyama’s first choice. Instead, the young man from Toyama Prefecture practiced handball until entering junior high school. Joining his school’s sumo team, he nearly cut his career short after sustaining an elbow injury, and seriously considered quitting sumo. He persevered and went on to a successful High school career, eventually earning a scholarship to Kinki University where he entered the renowned sumo program that had produced top rikishi such as Takarafuji, and Tokushoryu. During his time studying at Kinki University, Asanoyama won seven college titles, putting him in the top four in All-Japan Sumo Championships. After graduating, Asanoyama joined Takasago beya where he trained under former Ozeki and fellow Kinki University graduate Asashio Taro IV. Having been a multiple time university champion, Asanoyama was allowed to skip the two lowest ranks and debut in the Sandanme division at the 2016 Haru basho. In his first tournament he scored a 5-2 kachi koshi, the first of many to come. He followed this excellent start with back to back 6-1 records and received a promotion to the Makushita division in September.

Much like his time in Sandanme, Asanoyama spent only three basho in Makushita, taking the divisions yusho at the 2017 Hatsu basho on rout to a Juryo promotion. Prior to this promotion, Toyoyama beya had lost both their Sekitori status, marking the first time the stable had been without a top division wrestler since 1878. With Asanoyama joining the Juryo division, he ensured his stable would have sekitori representation once more. Asanoyama’s first tournament in Juryo was one of great success; the young rikishi finished with a 10-5 record but lost the yusho in a playoff to the veteran Toyohibiki. He once again found himself in a playoff situation at the Nagoya basho, yet this time a loss to Daiamami would cost him the yusho. Despite losing the championship, his record would be enough to land him a spot in the top Makuuchi division for the 2017 Aki basho. His first top division outing began with mixed results, as he ended day 6 with three wins and three losses. When asked about his early performance, Asanoyama remarked that he felt cursed by the east side of the dohyo, as all his losses had come on that side. He overcame this curse, however, and went on to post five straight wins, remaining just one win behind the yusho leader until day 13. Finishing the tournament with a 10-5 record, Asanoyama received the fighting spirit special prize for his standout Makuuchi debut. At the following Kyushu basho, he failed to replicate the success he had in September and recorded his first career make koshi after winning only five of his fifteen bouts. Primarily a yotsu sumo specialist, Asanoyama relies on mawashi grappling techniques to win his matches. His most common kimarite is a yorikiri force out.


Daieisho (left) vs. Asanoyama (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=12291
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/3682/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asanoyama_Hideki

Who’s That Rikishi #9: Kaisei Ichiro


Age: 30
Birth Name: Ricardo Sugano
Home Town: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Stable: Tomozuna
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

Unlike many of his childhood friends, Ricardo Sugano was not interested in his Brazilian homelands favorite pastime of soccer. Instead, the young Sao Paulo native spent his time studying martial arts and had a keen interest in judo. After a family friend encouraged Ricardo to take up sumo, he began practicing the sport and went on to win a Brazillian Amature Sumo Championship. This success prompted him to travel to Japan to become a professional rikishi, and in 2006 he entered Tomozuna beya where he joined fellow Brazillian rikishi Kaishin. He made his professional debut at the 2006 Aki basho and officially adopted the shikona of Kaisei Ichiro. In just under two years, Kaisei had advanced through the three lowest divisions, but he would lose his momentum upon entering the Makishita division and remained there for the next three years.

Kaisei’s fortunes began to turn in September of 2009 when he went undefeated at the Aki basho, only losing the yusho in a playoff with fellow gaijin rikishi Gagamaru. Three tournaments later, in July of 2010, Kaisei broke into the Juryo division and became the fourth Brazillian born rikishi to reach sumo’s salaried ranks. In November of that same year, Kaisei won his first and only championship when he took the Juryo yusho with an 11-4 record, this time beating Toyohibiki, Tochinowaka, and Takayasu in a four-way playoff. He followed this success with another kachi koshi in January and earned a promotion to the Makuuchi division. Kaisei’s first tournament in the top division saw him go undefeated until a day 10 loss to Tochinoshin. With nine straight wins, the Brazillian rikishi achieved the second-longest winning streak for a debuting Maegashira wrestler, falling just two wins short of tying Taiho’s 1960 record. Kaisei would finish the tournament with double-digit wins and take home the fighting spirit prize.

Kaisei struggled through much of 2012, routinely getting make koshi records yet picking up just enough wins to remain in the top division for most of the year. He had something of a return to form at the 2012 Nagoya basho, going 11-4 and winning his second fighting spirit prize. Kaisai also found success at the following years Nagoya basho, where he again finished with eleven wins and took the jun-yusho. In May 2016, Kaisei broke into the san’yaku and reached his highest rank of Sekiwake one tournament later. He was unable to maintain his new position for long, and by the end of the year he had become a rank and filler once again. Kaisei was injured while training for the 2017 Haru basho, and for the first time in his career, he was forced to pull out of a tournament. A poor performance in Nagoya say him fall back to Juryo, but this demotion seemed to be just what the doctor ordered as the Brazilian rikishi posted 10 wins, returned to the top division, and finished the year with consecutive kachi koshi. Kaisei mainly uses yotsu-sumo techniques, winning 51% of his bouts with a yorikiri forceout. His favorite grips is a left hand outside, right hand inside migi-yotsu.


Kaisei (left) vs. Ikioi (right), Aki basho, 2017


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6753
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/2950/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaisei_Ichir%C5%8D

Who’s That Rikishi #8: Takanoiwa Yoshimori


TakanoiwaAge: 27
Birth Name: Adiya Baasandorj
Home Town: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Stable: Takanohana
Highest Rank: Maegashira 2

Born in Ulaanbaatar in 1990, the future Takanoiwa Yoshimori was introduced to Japan’s national sport when the sumo coach from Johoku High School came looking for Mongolian talent to join his team. Having passed the selection test, he moved to Japan when he was sixteen and began honing his skills at Johoku. In 2008 he joined Takanohana beya to train under his childhood idol, former Yokozuna Takanohana. After a successful première at the 2009 Haru basho, Takanoiwa was promoted to Jonidan for the May tournament, where he recorded a perfect 7-0 record but lost the division yusho in a playoff. He won his first championship two basho later when he once again recorded a 7-0 record and took home the Kyushu Sandanme yusho. Takanoiwa’s championship performance earned him a promotion up the banzuke into the Makushita division in January, but he struggled to find success. Takanoiwa’s luck didn’t improve in early 2011, as he was forced to pull out part way through the Natsu basho and missed the entirety of the Nagoya basho due to injury. As a result, he found himself back in the Sandanme division upon his return. Unperturbed, Takanoiwa won six of his seven matches in September and was promoted back to Makushita. Another 6-1 record in Kyushu put him in contention for the Makushita yusho, but another playoff loss cost him the championship.

Takanoiwa made his Juryo debut in July of 2012, but subsequent back-to-back make-koshi nearly cost him his position in the division. He had a return to form for the 2013 Hatsu basho and took the Juryo yusho with an impressive twelve wins. The rest of the year saw Takanoiwa produce winning records in four out of the five remaining tournaments, and he broke into sumo’s top rank at the beginning of 2014. He returned to Juryo three tournaments later, after suffering a staggering thirteen losses at the May basho. The Mongolian rikishi would spend the next year and a half in and out of Makuuchi until cementing his place in the division in early 2016. Takanoiwa’s first top division success came at the 2016 Nagoya basho, where he finished second place behind Harumafuji and was awarded his first sansho special prize for fighting spirit. Following this incredible performance, he was promoted to Maegashira 3 for Aki, but struggled against the joi and fell back into the middle of Makuuchi by November. 2017 started with a bang for Takanoiwa, who collected eleven wins, including one kinboshi victory over Hakuho. Beating the Dai-Yokozuna had a tremendous impact on the Hatsu basho and the sumo world, as it cost Hakuho the Emperor’s Cup and lead to Kisenosato picking up the long-sought-after yusho he needed to become the first Japanese born Yokozuna since Takanoiwa’s own oyakata, Takanohana, retired in 2003. For his efforts, Takanoiwa was awarded his first outstanding performance award and his highest rank to date, Maegashira 2. Once again the joi proved to be too much for Takanoiwa, who fell back to the mid-Magashira where he remains to this day. When meeting his opponents on the Dohyo, Takanoiwa mainly employs yotsu-zumo to win his bouts. His preferred grip is a left hand outside right hand inside migi-yotsu. His most common kimarite is a yori-kiri force out, but he is known to employ an uwatenage overarm throw to win as well.


Takanoiwa (left) vs. Goeido (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=11724
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3146
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takanoiwa_Yoshimori

Who’s That Rikishi #7: Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi


TochinoshinAge: 30
Birth Name: Levan Gorgadze
Home Town: Mtskheta, Georgia
Stable: Kasugano
Highest Rank: Sekiwake

 

Tochinoshin was born Levan Gorgadze, in the city of Mtskheta in 1987. As a teenager, the young Georgian practiced the Soviet martial art of Sambo and was a national level judo fighter. By the early 200’s he took up amateur sumo and competed in several Junior and World Championships. While training with the Nihon Universities sumo team, he was scouted by Kasugano oyakata. Levan joined Kasugano beya in 2006 and made his first professional appearance at the Haru basho. Adopting the shikona of Tochinishin, the Georgian native tore through the lower divisions, collecting eleven straight winning records. This hot streak was more than enough to land him a spot in Juryo for January 2008, where he’d win the Juryo yusho with an impressive 12-3 record and earn a spot in Makuuchi after another kachi-koshi in March. Starting at Maegashira 14, the young Georgian experienced his first ever make-koshi losing record at the 2008 Natsu basho. His first taste of top rank success came at the 2009 Kyushu basho when Tochinoshin would finish second place behind Yokozuna Hakuho in the yusho race and collect his first Sansho special price for fighting spirit.

Tochinoshin picked up his second fighting spirit award at the 2010 Natsu basho after defeating four ozeki in a row and finishing with an 8-7 record. This feat would earn him his first position in the san’yaku, and he would debut at Komusubi in July. His time in the joi was short-lived, and a poor 6-9 performance relegated him back to the Maegashira. He would reach Komusubi again in Kyushu of 2010, but his fate was identical to the last time. In May of 2011, Tochinoshin replicated his previous second place finish with an identical 12-3 record and took home his third fighting spirit award. This exceptional performance would earn him his third promotion to Komusubi. Once again, he only accumulated six wins at the rank and returned to the Maegashira within one tournament. Misfortune would strike Tochinoshin in July of 2013 when he sustained a severe knee injury at the July tournament. This injury forced him to miss three straight basho and resulted in his demotion back to the Makushita division. Despite this setback, Tochinoshin made an incredible comeback, collecting four consecutive championships and exploding back onto the Maegashira scene at the 2014 Kyushu basho. He managed 11 wins in Kyushu and take home his fourth career fighting spirit award.

2015 would be another successful year for the Georgian rikishi, who pickicked up his first kinboshi victory over Harumafuji, a fifth Komusubi promotion, and his fifth fighting spirit award. He’d experience another career milestone at the 2016 Natsu basho, where he finished with a 10-5 record and his first ever technique prize. His performance would earn him a promotion to Sekiwake, his highest rank to date. Much like before, his Sekiwake run lasted only one basho. At the 2017 Hatsu tournament, injury once again forced Tochinoshin to withdraw from the competition. His time off the dohyo was substantially shorter, and he returned for the following basho in March where he would be runner-up for the third time in his career. At the Nagoya basho, Tochinoshin collected a kinboshi win over Kisenosato and finished with a respectable 9-6 record. Despite high expectations for the Georgian at the Aki basho, Tochinoshin only managed four victories after nagging issues with his knee resurfaced. Known for his tremendous strength, Tochinoshin is a skilled mawashi fighter who uses yotsu-sumo to win the majority of his matches. His preferred grip is a right hand inside left hand outside migi-yotsu, which he uses to force his opponents out of the dohyo.


Tochinoshin (left) vs. Hokutofuji (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6599
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=2895
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tochinoshin_Tsuyoshi

Who’s That Rikishi #6: Daishomaru Shogo


DaishomaruAge: 26
Birth Name: Shogo Kawabata
Home Town: Osaka, Japan
Stable: Oitekaze
Highest Rank: Maegashira 7

Daishomaru Shogo was born in the bustling city of Osaka Japan in 1991. As a primary school student, He competed in city-wide competitions and earned the rank of children’s sumo Yokozuna in the sixth grade. After completing primary school, he was scouted by the coach at Meitoku Gijukun, an elite sports boarding school. Daishomaru joined their sumo team and went on to win a national championship. After the death of his coach, he elected to attend Kanazawa Gakuin High School rather than continue in the Meitoku system. He experienced great success at Kanazawa, collecting one individual championship and several team titles. When it came time to pick a university, Daishomaru chose to attend Nihon University for their renowned sumo program. Although injury  prevented him from competing for his first two years at Nihon, he recovered and become one of the university teams co-captains. In the semifinals of a national tournament, he would best his fellow co-captain to win the championship. With this victory, he qualified to enter sumo at the rank of makushita tsukedashi, rather than starting at Jonokuchi.

In 2014 Daishomaru joined Oitekaze beya. His Oyakata had also attended Nihon University, as had his stablemate, the ever popular Endo. He finished his premiere tournament with a respectable 5-2 record at the 2014 Haru basho, and would get back to back kachi-koshi in May and July. After two consecutive make-koshi, Daishomaru put together a strong run of winning records that earned him a promotion to Juryo for the 2015 Natsu basho. After winning only six matches in his Juryo debut, Daishomaru returned to the Makushita division for the following tournament. He would rebound almost immediately, taking the Nagoya Makushita yusho and climbing back into the Juryo division by September. Daishomaru entered the Makuuchi division in March of 2016 and reached his highest rank to date, Maegashira 7, two tournaments later at Nagoya. He spent much of 2017 at the bottom of Makuuchi until a stand out performance at the September competition saw him pick up ten wins and contend for the yusho up until day seven. As an oshizumo practitioner, Daishomaru prefers to fight with a strong pushing offense. Statistically, he wins 35% of his matches with an oshidashi pushout, and 30% with a tsukiotoshi thrust down.


Daishomaru (left) vs. Tokushoryu (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=12144
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile?id=3535
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daish%C5%8Dmaru_Sh%C5%8Dgo