Haru 2022 Basho Review
The Haru basho is settled. Before we move on to Natsu, we should take one more look at the March tournament. Here is something about each and every rikishi who competed. They are sorted by win total, then rank for all tied rikishi. There is also a visualization of each rikishi's performance (white circle is a win, black circle is a loss, and squares are fusen matches.)
12 Wins + Playoff Win--Yusho
Sekiwake East Wakatakakage
In his debut at Sekiwake, Wakatakakage pulled out the suprise yusho for his first Emperor's Cup. He is the lightest champion since former Yokozuna Harumafuji, and the first shin-Sekiwake to win a yusho since Futabyama in 1936. This could be his career highlight, and if it is, what a highlight. His playoff win was an impressive performance in a classic match. That capped off a career-high win total in a tournament where his sumo was just in top form throughout.
And it may not be a career highlight. He is 27, finding the way to beat the best rikishi, and utilizing a range of techniques. He has, in theory, started an Ozeki run. He has, in actuality, joined the ranks of yusho winners. There have been just 72 men who have lifted the Emperor's Cup in the six basho per year era since 1957. Wakatakakage is one of them.
12 Wins +Playoff Loss--Jun-Yusho
Maegashira #7 East Takayasu
Fighting Spirit Prize
Takayasu was as close as he has ever been to winning a yusho. (He was as close as anyone has ever been without winning, since he lost a playoff on a final maneuver at the edge.) As a 32 year old with a checkered recent injury history, the former Ozeki may not be able to get anywhere near this close again. Of course, he also fought extremely well throughout Haru. If he can keep up his one-minute bout approach and wear down opponents, similar success is within his grasp.
Ozeki #2 West Mitakeumi
After a yusho and Ozeki promotion, 11 wins can seem like a letdown. Mitakeumi actually did quite well for an Ozeki debut, and he had the most wins of any Ozeki. More importantly, he seems like he can continue to be a yusho challenger and a strong Ozeki for a few basho.
Maegashira #6 West Kotonowaka
Fighting Spirit Prize
Kotonowaka's 11-4 and Fighting Spirit Prize in January seemed like a way for the young man to announce his presence in the top division. Then he did it again in March, against better competition overall. The fundamentally sound scion of Sadogatake-beya is knocking on the door of Sanyaku, and he should be a force for awhile.
Maegashira #4 East Kiribayama
Kiribayama is still someone on the verge of something really good, but 10 wins while facing the joi-jin slate is a sign he's starting to put things together. He'll turn 26 between basho, and he has an array of skills. What is really promising is an increasing use of hatakikomi when gets an opponent off balance.
Ozeki #1 East Shodai
The question regarding Shodai's performance during Haru is: How? How did he escape losing his Ozeki rank while kadoban after starting 1-5? How did he win 8 of his last 9 after looking so hopeless early on? How did he topple leaders Takayasu and Wakatakakage in the final two days? He largely did it by being Shodai, standing firm at the tachiai and taking advantage of the mistakes of his opponents. He'll be an Ozeki still, and may fight like he did the second week for all of Natsu.
Maegashira #2 East Ichinojo
Ichinojo looked as good as he has in a long while, not just winning with marathon yorikiris but using throws and slapdowns. He is still in trouble if he moves backwards at all thanks to his immense size. That's not a concern for him when he keeps his feet and shows a small mean streak.
Maegashira #6 East Hokutofuji
Look, this is about Hokutofuji's true level. He's now a solid veteran who just knows what he's doing with a signature approach. No one really likes getting two hands shoved under their chin at the tachiai, and he also knows what to do when he makes an opponent uncomfortable.
Maegashira #9 East Tobizaru
The Flying Monkey had his best performance in a year, and he won his last four in a row. He'll always be tricky, but Tobizaru kept focus and was relatively efficient. He's about to turn 30, and is on the small end. At least he will always be fun to watch.
Maegashira #9 West Wakamotoharu
Wakamotoharu's nice performance will be overshadowed by the fact his younger brother won the yusho, but 9 wins at a career high rank has established the middle Onami brother (eldest brother Wakatakamoto is in Makushita still) as a firm Maegashira. Despite being a smallish riksihi, no one is going to catch him unaware and he should keep around this rank.
Maegashira #12 East Kotoeko
Kotoeko did usual Kotoeko things, winning a few and then losing one or two while putting himself into the middle of his opponent as actively as possible. No reason to think that won't keep him hanging around lower-Maegashira.
Maeagshira #14 East Kotoshoho
IN his return to Makuuchi after a year in Juryo, Kotoshoho had multiple matches where he was too wild and completely out of control. He also won 9 matches and had some actually dominant performances simply based on his combination of size, speed, and strength. At 22, he is still a lot of promise, but what promise it is.
Maegashira #15 West Tochinoshin
Coming into Haru, it seemed like this would be the basho that finally sent the former Ozeki down to Juryo. Instead, Tochinoshin got 9 wins and even did an old-fashioned lift and carry win against Terutsuyoshi. He's close to the end of his sumo career, but he's not quite there yet.
Maegashira #16 East Nishikigi
Nishikigi came back to Makuuchi after a year and a half away, and he actually did pretty well. He has a method, stay in and put his arms around the other guy's, but he knows how to make it work. We'll get to see more of it now.
Ozeki #1 West Takakeisho
Takakeisho got to 8 wins and cleared kadoban status to keep his Ozeki rank, which was the most important thing. After he did that, he dropped his last four matches. The Ozeki's power was clearly not at full-strength, as his shoves didn't push opponents back as much as he can. His rhythm during a tsuppari attack and his ring awareness were still there, but he needs full power to dominate.
Sekiwake West Abi
After two straight 12 win Jun-Yushos, 8 wins can seem like a disappointment. On the other hand, Abi held onto a Sekiwake rank after being at Makushita #56 a year before. He was down there because of suspension, and he was always this good. He hasn't changed his sumo, but made his two-hands-to-the-throat attack more devastating and effective. He gets to show he can do more as a Sekiwake in May.
Komusubi West Hoshoryu
Hoshoryu secured 8 wins on the final day to stay at Komusubi. You don't do that at 22 without being really good, but Hoshoryu has also never truly been dominant at any rank. He has been ahead of the age curve and won consistently, because he is insanely skilled and athletic compared to almost any other rikishi. He could have another gear, and at this stage that would make him knock on the door of Ozeki.
Maegashira #1 East Daieisho
Other than his surprise yusho in January 2021, Daieisho has been firmly in the "Upper Maegashira Who Can Occasionally Appear in Sanyaku" category. He will do that once again in May after getting 8 wins at the highest Maegashira slot. He probably will come back to Maegashira, but he also probably won't be overwhelmed.
Maegashira #4 West Endo
Endo is becoming an increasingly odd rikishi, as he seems somewhat lost half the time. The other half, he looks like he should never be beaten. Essentially, he is visibly out-thinking himself, but he's so good and smart that he can also figure it out enough to get a kachi-koshi.
Maegashira #10 East Shimanoumi
Shimanoumi is probably just too good for this rank, but not by too much. He keeps his feet wide and is always going forward, but he just doesn't have the power or athleticism to dominate.
Maegashira #11 West Terutsuyoshi
Terutsuyoshi had a candidate for anti-highlight of the basho when Tochinoshin lifted him out sideways. And his leg-trip wins were more due to awkward collision of lower bodies than skillful trips. 8 wins is 8 wins, though, and he will move up a bit in the rankings come May.
Maegashira #17 West Ichiyamamoto
As the last man in Makuuchi, Ichiyamamoto needed to avoid 8 losses to stay in the top division. He was 3-7 after ten days, then somehow pulled it out. How long he can continue to stay depends on if he can replicate his second week performance more than his first week performance.
Maegashira #2 West Tamawashi
Tamawashi will fall a little, but he's still going to be a mainstay of upper Maegashira. The joi-jin still gets the 37 year old Bullet Eagle's heavy nodowa for a little longer. He also got the kinboshi that sent Terunofuji out of the tournament, so he even had a nice extra to his basho.
Maegashira #10 West Aoiyama
Aoiyama lost his last two matches to get a make-koshi, which he'll probably be disappointed by. Yet he also keeps proving that his alternating-hand, pushing attack can still be effective enough againt lower Maegashira. There are worse things for a nearly 36 year old in sumo.
Maegashira #11 East Myogiryu
Myogiryu was absolutely terrible in January, but did okay in March. He didn't exactly fight like he'll set sumo on fire in May, so 7-8 should be seen as stopping a slide that would put the veteran on Juryo's door.
Maegashira #12 West Chiyotairyu
Add Chiyotairyu to the list of veterans who aren't quite what they used to be, but are good enough to hang around lower Maegashira some more. The man even added an actual grappling move.
Maegashira #14 West Yutakayama
YUtakayama was the streakiest wrestler of Haru, going with 3 straight wins then 5 straight losses followed by 4 straight wins before 3 straight losses. Yes, that does mean he had three chances at kachi-koshi without getting it. Still probably enough to stay in Makuuchi for one more basho.
Maegashira #16 West Kotokuzan
Kotokuzan improbably came to Makuuchi for Haru 2022 after 12 years as a professional sumotori at age 28. He might go right back down, but his hatakikomi heavy style, 4 of his 7 wins came via the simple slapdown, could seem him yo-yo back up.
Maegashira #17 East Kagayaki
Kagayaki will go down with a losing record from this low a rank. Juryo is getting a wrestler who is probably just too good for the second division, but not good enough to stick in the top division.
Maegashira #3 East Onosho
Haru was not Onosho's finest hour, to say the least. He'll get a chance to feast on lower ranked rikishi who may be less familiar with his tendency to get way off balance and are more likely to be overwhelmed by his power.
Maegashira #5 East Takarafuji
Takarafuji had a big six match losing streak after a Day One win, which meant his tournament was largely toast. He did show his solid, redoubtable sumo against lower-ranked rikishi. Maybe a demotion will help him put up a good score next time.
Maegashira #7 West Okinoumi
Okinoumi sure looked like he couldn't hang with the mid-Maegashira anymore. Of course, you don't make it 12 years in Makuuchi without knowing how to make your way. If Okinoumi gets to be below Maegashira #10 in May, he'll likely be able to do a bit better.
Maegashira #8 East Chiyoshoma
Chiyoshoma's surprising run in mid-Maegashira might just be running out of steam. He actually didn't try to many tricks during Haru, and he got railroaded quite often. Maybe he should rebound from his coming demotion by trying a henka in every match. That will be a talking point, at the very least.
Maegashira #8 West Sadanoumi
Sadanoumi's resurgence back into Maegashira hit a wall in Haru. He'll turn 35 during Natsu, and time is not on his side. But veteran know-how and a decent amount of athleticism still remaining means he can rebound in May.
Maegashira #13 East Chiyomaru
The Eternally Round One struggled to use his long arms and surprising nimbleness to redirect his opponents like he does when he's on. Chiyomaru is a lot of fun, but he is very one note, and every rikishi knows what note he is about to play at this point.
Maegashira #13 West Chiyonokuni
Chiyonokuni was doing well until he had an injury, then he went kyujo for a few days before coming back and struggling. Honestly, it was a microcosm of his recent career. Let's hope he gets healthier in the next few weeks.
Komusubi East Takanosho
Things did not go well for Takanosho in his Komusubi debut. (He has been a Sekiwake multiple times, but never before had the lowest Sanyaku rank.) The 7 match losing streak beginning on Day Three saw him get completely off his sumo, and refocusing on what he does best by pushing close in on the opposition should be his main goal.
Maegashira #1 West Ura
Ura was overthinking things at Maegashira 1, best typified by his Day 7 approach of backing up to avoid Abi's opening thrust. Instead, he just got hit harder. While he's a smart sekitori, Ura does best when he can leap on an opponent's weakness with his bag of tricks at a moment's notice.
Maegashira #15 East Akua
Akua essentially sealed his demotion to Juryo in Week One, and he never did enough to fully reverse the trend in Week Two. Akua has some skills, but not the necessary strength or athleticism to do really well in Makuuchi.
Yokozuna East Terunofuji
One of the many benefits of being a Yokozuna is the ability to leave a basho through injury and not risk your rank. Terunofuji took advantage of that in Haru for the first time, although he wasn't obviously limping or needing the big wheelchair. If the Kaiju does get healthy by May, that should still terrify every other top division wrestler.
Maegashira #5 West Ishiura
Ishiura was at a career high rank, and then he got a neck injury in a weird moment against Takakeisho. Needless to say, he will want to forget Haru 2022.
Maegashira #3 West Meisei
Mesei did not just go 1-14, but won his first match and then lost the next fourteen. His sumo became completely unmoored from what made his successful. He might have also been dealing with an injury, although nothing obvious was bothering him.