6 Wild Predictions for Natsu 2022
Sumo is almost here. The Natsu basho starts in less than 24 hours. You can still sign up to play Fantasy Basho on Fantasizr before the tournament begins.
Here are a few off-the-wall, completely wild predictions for the Natsu basho. What does it mean that they are off-the-wall, completely wild? It means I am not looking forward to revisiting these in two weeks. Still, if I squint I can sort of see these things happening.
Wakatakakage's Ozeki run ends this basho. Coming off a 12 win yusho in his Sekiwake debut, Wakatakakage could be aiming for sumo's second highest rank. The rule of thumb is that a rikishi needs 33 wins over 3 basho in the Sanyaku. The yusho counts as the first of 3 for Wakatakakage. If he gets 9, he will be in a position of needing 12 wins in Nagoya. An 8 win basho puts an Ozeki run on life support. And a losing record kills it. Those are much more like what Wakatakakage has done before March.
Terunofuji doesn't get a yusho or jun-yusho. Terunofuji has been the best rikishi in sumo when he was healthy over the last year. And he was not healthy the last two basho. You'll be surprised the Yokozuna is said to be healthy enough to compete coming in. He has a legendary injury history, and he can pull out if he isn't healthy enough to compete for the Emperor's Cup.
There will be two (or more) Sanyaku slots available for Nagoya. Last time out, just one Sanyaku wrestler, Takanosho, had a losing record to drop out of the named ranks. (Excluding the un-demote-able Yokozuna, of course.) That is rare. While Wakatakakage and Abi seem to be in pole position for Ozeki runs, these men are both in position to fall out with 6-9 records. And healthy Ozeki may make that more likely. The upper Maegashira are also frisky, which means getting a winning record at the top is a challenge.
Kotonowaka will once again challenge for the yusho for a third straight basho. This may not even be that wild, considering Kotonowaka has 24 wins and multiple special prizes in the last two basho. But he has shown he is able to be in the title race until the final day. He gets a tougher schedule this time, but he also faced some of the best recently. He can do it.
Takayasu will have a terrible basho. Takayasu came within a hair's breadth of winning a yusho last time around, and now he sits at Maegashira #1 East. Still, he has had an uneven last year or more, largely due to a series of small injuries. For Haru, he was coming of an 0-0-15 record after an in-stable COVID diagnosis in January. That made him look like his Ozeki form. He doesn't have that time off before this basho, and he gets the challenging rikishi first thing.
Midorifuji will be the big-winning lower Maegashira. The way a Banzuke and each day's Torikumi are constructed, some lower Maegashira always racks up wins in the opening week and dominates the lower levels. For Natsu, that will be Midorifuji. He crashed out of Makuuchi previously because of injury, and his Juryo performance indicated he is 100% healthy again. He also is extremely tricky and will be a surprise to anyone who has never faced him or hasn't seen him in a while. He could be in good position for double-digit wins and a special prize.
We'll revisit these after the basho to see how bad these predictions were. We may even get a clue on how bad these were in just a few hours.