Haru Rikishi by Rikishi Preview
With a little more than a week until real, live sumo is back (and about a week until Fantasy Basho drafting), it's time once again for a Rikishi by Rikishi Preview. Going into Haru, we don't have one of the Jungyo tours to get information on health or training. This means we have to focus more on past performance.
The rikishi are presented in Banzuke order and have their Power Rankings Points listed with them.
Yokozuna 1 East Hakuho (140 Power Rankings Points)
Hakuho is, without question, the greatest sumo wrestler of all time, but the real question is whether he is the greatest of the moment. Coming off a knee surgery and missed basho, Hakuho won his first ten matches in January. But he didn’t look invincible and after Day Ten, he lost four straight and missed Day Fifteen with an injury. He could be spectacular, or he could be a massive injury risk.
Yokozuna 1 West Kakuryu (82 Power Rankings Points)
Kakuryu should be the rikishi most able to cope with injury, as he is an expert at letting his opponent beat himself. Still, he was injured enough in Hatsu that he had to pull out after Day Five, with just two wins. A Yokozuna is a Yokozuna for a reason, but Kakuryu’s health isn’t in such a state that he’s a good bet to win too much.
Ozeki 1 East Takayasu (154 Power Rankings Points)
Takayasu is still the best rikishi to have never won a basho, which says a lot about how his Hatsu basho went. Supposedly, he had the flu for the first few days and was never 100%, but he still managed to get 9 wins. In his last 6 fully healthy tournaments, the Ozeki has 65 total wins, meaning he is a real contender even if he’s never won it all.
Ozeki 1 West Goeido (140 Power Rakings Points)
Goeido’s 9 wins are more shocking than Takayasu’s, as Goeido was clearly struggling with injuries for the whole tournament. He is frustrating to watch, but he’s been an Ozeki since November of 2014 for a reason. Easily the most annoying top pick in Fantasy Basho, Goeido is still certainly an asset to any team he is a part of.
Ozeki 2 East Tochinoshin (80 Power Rankings Points)
The Giant Georgian had a Hatsu tournament to forget, one year after having one of the most memorable. Since his Yusho in January 2018 as a Maegashira, Tochinoshin has become an Ozeki and one of the great favorites of the sumo world. Unfortunately, his power grappling style mixes extremely poorly with his spate of leg injuries, and he had no ability last time out to lift anybody out successfully.
Sekiwake East Takakeisho (153 Power Rankings Points)
With 11 wins in January, Takakeisho could easily be an Ozeki right now, as he collected 33 wins over his last 3 basho. The Sumo Association thought otherwise, but he is still a fast rising 22 year old with a Yusho under his belt. He is the best bet for the next ten years, almost certainly, and maybe the best for the next ten basho.
Sekiwake West Tamawashi (138 Power Rankings Points)
Did it really happen? Did the 34 year old Tamawashi really win the Yusho in January? Did the man reliant on brute strength and determined fierceness really manage to outlast all others and collect 13 wins? It did happen, and while Tamawashi probably won’t repeat for a host of reasons, he’s a great choice for any team.
Komusubi East Mitakeumi (107 Power Rankings Points)
The fact he isn’t an Ozeki right now after his strong summer makes Mitakeumi feel like a disappointment, but he’s still a very talented and relatively young rikishi. That all showed at the start of the Haru basho, until he tweaked his knee on Day 6 against Myogiryu and missed three days. He somehow still came back and managed 8 wins to keep his Sanyaku place.
Komusubi West Hokutofuji (112 Power Rankings Points)
Hokutofuji makes his Sanyaku debut for Haru, and there are lots of reasons to think he can make it stick. He’s got a jun-yusho, five kinboshi, and two special prizes in his career, and he’s 26, so there’s some room for growth in the future. Whether that optimism gets translated to success in March is an open question, as Komusubi is always rough.
Maegashira 1 East Kaisei (88 Power Rankings Points)
Kaisei has landed the dreaded Maegashira 1 East spot. He might actually be one of the better equipped rikishi to avoid getting beat up by everyone above him in the rankings. He can match up with anyone on size and strength, while having enough skills to occasionally beat the Yokozuna and Ozeki.
Maegashira 1 West Endo (102 Power Rankings Points)
He is still a fan favorite, but Endo hasn’t done much at this high a ranking for most of his career. Of course, he also has a knack for doing surprising things in his career, both good and bad. Predicting what Endo will do in a Basho is a fool’s errand, but he’ll be featured a lot at this rank.
Maegashira 2 East Daieisho (106 Power Rankings Points)
Daieisho is at a new career high rank for Haru, so who knows how well he’ll fare at Maegashira 2. He is on a roll, though, and over the last three basho has gotten 8, 9, and 9 wins. It could be that at 25, he is making a real climb into Sanyaku, but he got seriously over promoted.
Maegashira 2 West Myogiryu (80 Power Rankings Points)
For January, Myogiryu got himself back to Sanyaku for the first time in three years after a series of 8 win basho. For his trouble, he got absolutely smashed ,and only managed 5 wins. Now he is back in the Maegashira ranks, but facing many of the same people as last time.
Maegashira 3 East Nishikigi (97 Power Rankings Points)
At 28, Nishikigi isn’t exactly young, but might still have some room for growth. He certainly is establishing himself at upper Maegashira for the first time in his life. At Maegashira 3 and 2 in the last two basho, he managed 8 and 7 wins, respectively.
Maegashira 3 West Shodai (86 Power Rankings Points)
Since January 2018, Shodai has been ranked between Maegashira 4 and Maegashira 1, all the while winning between 6 and 9 matches. This is his level, essentially, although it is also worth pointing out he has a knack for streakiness and upsets which can make him more intriguing than his win totals.
Maegashira 4 East Tochiozan (89 Power Rankings Points)
Tochiozan has been on a slow slide from Sanyaku status over the last two years. While he is still a really good rikishi, he just doesn’t have the ability to hang with the big boys anymore. That’s a problem for him in Haru, because he is probably right on the edge of having to face Yokozuna and Ozeki.
Maegashira 4 West Ichinojo (78 Power Rankings Points)
This is the lowest Ichinojo has been ranked in eight tournaments, which says a lot about his status in sumo despite two straight 6-9 records. The basic facts are still the same for him: he is the biggest man in the top division, still not yet 26, and a fearsome opponent on his day. Unfortunately, he also frequently looks completely out of sorts and unable to overcome the slightest problem.
Maegashira 5 East Chiyotairyu (87 Power Rankings Points)
Chiyotairyu will go about as far as a thunderous tachiai will take a rikishi. The problem for him is that his straight ahead style doesn’t translate to wins. In fact, he hasn’t gotten more than nine in a year and a half.
Maegashira 5 West Onosho (102 Power Rankings Points)
One year ago, for Haru 2018, Onosho was in this exact same slot on the Banzuke, but he couldn’t compete due to the knee injury he suffered the previous basho. He is absolutely back to full health, but he might not really be fully back. Although he has racked up double digit wins and a special prize in the last year, he also occasionally seems to be just a step below where he expects to be. If that goes away, then watch out.
Maegashira 6 East Okinoumi (102 Power Rankings Points)
As a 33 year old whose had a solid, but never incredible career, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Okinoumi fall off a bit. Instead, over 2018, he had a mini-resurgence and put together a series of winning records. January stopped that, but only with a 7-8 record.
Maegashira 6 West Abi (96 Power Rankings Points)
Abi will put both his hands to his opponents’ throats in every match. He will then only have the backup plan of dancing around at the edge of the dohyo. He is talented enough this will still result in a fair number of wins. Whatever happens, it will always be fun.
Maegashira 7 East Aoiyama (100 Power Rankings Points)
The thing about Aoiyama is that it’s all about the health of his legs. He will probably be able to withstand most comers due to his bulk and fundamentals, but only if his legs are allowing him to keep his balance. Usually, though it has worked out of late.
Maegashira 7 West Takarafuji (96 Power Rankings Points)
In January, Takarafuji had a winning record for the first time in a year. Now, it was only an 8-7, but it also backed up a string of four straight 7 win tournaments. So Takarafuji’s one of the safest bets in Makuuchi.
Maegashira 8 East Asanoyama (86 Power Rankings Points)
If you watched only Asanoyama’s wins, you’d believe he was on the fast track to Yokozuna. If you watched only his losses, you’d be shocked he was even in the top division. More problematically, he seems to combine these traits into each basho’s performance, as he goes on incredible losing and winning streaks every tournament.
Maegashira 8 West Kotoshogiku (90 Power Rankings Points)
The former Ozeki (and no one gets that particular honorific more) still has some skills, but his physical ability is clearly on the wane. When he gets his preferred grip under an opponent’s arms, he can still guide him to the edge. He also can lose contests of strength and cannot dance around a nimbler opponent.
Maegashira 9 East Sadanoumi (98 Power Rankings Points)
Sadanoumi’s solid, workmanlike sumo got some additional flair after his face was injured early in the Hatsu basho. Maybe that also propelled him to 9 wins, but even if he doesn’t get injured he has shown recently he is a very good rikishi.
Maegashira 9 West Ikioi (84 Power Rankings Points)
Ikioi seemed to be beat up for all of 2018, with very mixed results. So what happened the first match of 2019? He got busted open after a Kagayaki head butt. The wound seemed to suit him, however, because he ended up going 9-6.
Maegashira 10 East Shohozan (84 Power Rankings Points)
Despite being 35, Shohozan is still big, strong, and tough, which can occasionally still generate wins. Even more occasionally, though, he seems to end up losing. Even when that happens, he still puts up a hell of a fight.
Maegashira 10 West Yago (82 Power Rankings Points)
Yago made his Makuuchi debut in January, and he also made a real impression on the top division. His 9 wins are almost disappointing as he was 7-1 after 8 days. Still, his impressive size and strong fundamentals means he could still make a bigger splash.
Maegashira 11 East Ryuden (80 Power Rankings Points)
Judging by his career so far, Ryuden is already a remarkable sumo story. He had an injury early in his career that would have ended it for many other people. Unfortunately, a little over a year into his makuuchi career, he is older than other recent debutants and often looks overmatched athletically.
Maegashira 11 West Meisei (102 Power Rankings Points)
Is Meisei a rising star? He is coming off winning 9, 9, and 8 matches in his last three tournaments, fully establishing himself as a top division wrestler. His style is functional, rather than spectacular, but it’s been good enough for winning records recently.
Maegashira 12 East Chiyonokuni (76 Power Rankings Points)
Chiyonokuni was having the tournament of his life through Day 9 of Hatsu, sitting on an 8-1 record. Then he got injured, somehow regaining his poor luck of 2018 after it seemed he was well past it. If he can regain his first week form from January, he’ll be dangerous.
Maegashira 12 West Yoshikaze (68 Power Rankings Points)
After 3 wins at Hatsu, we might be on Yoshikaze retirement watch, as the 36 year old is struggling to compete. The one hesitation is that this is the same situation Yoshikaze was in at Aki, and he managed to win 11 matches in that tournament. He literally could do anything.
Maegashira 13 East Tomokaze (59 Power Rankings Points)
The highest ranked rikishi promoted from Juryo to Makuuchi, Tomokaze has earned that honor by his rapid ascent to Makuuchi. He first made Juryo in November, where all he did was get 12 wins and the second-division championship. In January, he got 10 wins and earned the call up. A former amateur champion, he has all the tools.
Maegashira 13 West Kagayaki (70 Power Rankings Points)
Kagayaki has not missed any matches, but he does look like he might be struggling with some nagging injury. That, or he’s hit a wall where he can’t quite compete with the top Makuuchi men and can only manage middling records. He is young enough at 24 that he can still sort whatever it is out.
Maegashira 14 East Terutsuyoshi (53 Power Rankings Points)
Terutsuyoshi is almost guaranteed to make Makuuchi more fun from his opening match. He earned his was here with 8, 10, and 9 wins in his last three Juryo basho, but he’ll stand out for his relatively small stature for sumo (5’6” and 255 lbs), his bright attitude, and his range of skills he uses in the dohyo.
Maegashira 14 West Toyonoshima (58 Power Rankings Points)
In a career going back to 2002, Toyonoshima has 5 Jun-Yusho, 10 Special Prizes, and 4 Kinboshi. Yet he has not been in Makuuchi since September of 2016 due to an Achilles injury. He only made it back to Juryo, and the salaried and more privileged sekitori status, in November of 2018. No matter how he does, this is the best story of the Haru basho going in.
Maegashira 15 East Ishiura (51 Power Rankings Points)
Makuuchi’s most recent vintage of mighty-mite (and henka expert) is back in the top division after two basho in Juryo. He did win more than he lost, but he didn’t dominate the second division. If he is still jumping out of the way to turn his opponent around, everyone still knows it is coming and he’s in trouble.
Maegashira 15 West Kotoeko (67 Power Rankings Points)
A 7-8 Record at Maegashira 15 can sometimes mean demotion, but Kotoeko maintained his top division spot by having much worse around him. He will be looking to hang on once again, but he probably does need a winning record at this point to ensure it. That would be his first in three tries in Makuuchi.
Maegashira 16 East Daishoho (48 Power Rankings Points)
Daishoho earned his Makuuchi promotion by getting 8 wins in each of the last five tournaments. That consistency is admirable, but it also isn’t a portent of impending domination. Still, it seems churlish to bet against Makuuchi’s newest Mongolian getting 8 wins.
Maegashira 16 West Yutakayama (62 Power Rankings Points)
There are moments when Yutakayama looks poised to be a future Sanyaku mainstay, but they have been few and far between since his elbow injury in September. At this spot on the Banzuke, he should outclass everyone around him with his combination of size and skill. That can only happen if the Yutakayama from the first half of 2018 shows back up.
Maegashira 17 East Chiyoshoma (80 Power Rankings Points)
With the retirement of a Yokozuna and one less Sanyaku rank, we have a new rank at the bottom of Maegashira, but filled by a familiar face. Chiyoshoma somehow is still kicking around Makuuchi after 6 wins at Maegashira 14. He is perhaps the craftiest and wiliest rikishi, so he could easily stave off demotion one more time.