Hatsu 2019 Rikishi Preview
We are within two weeks of the start of the Hatsu basho for 2019. That means the Banzuke is out and planning can begin for each Fantasy Basho Oyakata. This small preview for each rikishi can help out. If you want to play for January, just email FantasyBasho@gmail.com
Yokozuna 1 East Kisenosato
Kyushu 2018: Yokozuna 2 East (0-5-10)
Kisenosato continued his comeback at Kyushu as the only Yokozuna participating. He promptly lost his first four matches and withdrew on Day Five. The Yokozuna Deliberation Council didn’t tell him to retire, but also warned him, while the Banzuke rewarded him for showing up in Kyushu by putting him at Yokozuna 1 East. Doubtful to participate.
Yokozuna 1 West Hakuho
Kyushu 2018: Yokuzuna 1 East (0-0-15)
Hakuho missed out on all of Kyushu thanks to a knee surgery, clearing up a problem he had throughout Aki. All he did there was go 15-0 and get his 41st Yusho, so who knows what a healthy Hakuho is like. The White Peng is still the best around and seems likely to forever be the best there ever was.
Yokozuna 2 East Kakuryu
Kyushu 2018: Yokozuna 1 West (0-0-15)
Lingering ankle issues kept Kakuryu out of Kyushu, but he was a participant in the regional tour afterward. His careful, reactive sumo isn’t as dynamic as others, but it can be wildly effective. It is important to keep in mind he was the only rikishi with multiple tournament wins in 2018.
Ozeki 1 East Takayasu
Kyushu 2018: Ozeki 1 West (12-3, Jun-Yusho)
Even without Yokozuna present, 12-3 and a runner up prize were laudable efforts for Takayasu in Kyushu. Unfortunately, it has to feel like it’s one that got away, as he positioned himself to just need a win over Mitakeumi on the final day for a playoff against Takakeisho. He couldn’t do it, and he remains the best rikishi without a Yusho to his name.
Ozeki 1 West Goeido
Kyushu 2018: Ozeki 1 East (8-4-3
)What a weird Kyushu Basho Goedio had. He started 2-3, won 6 straight to get to 8 wins and promptly withdrew with an arm injury on Day Twelve. This made him avoid Kadoban (being on probation) for January, and his Ozeki spot is safe. Nonetheless, what Goeido might do is still a huge question mark.
Ozeki 2 West Tochinoshin
Kyushu 2018: Ozeki 2 West (8-7)
The big Georgian was another Ozeki who got the 8 wins necessary to avoid kadoban status, but he did it the old fashioned way by sticking around the whole tournament. When he’s healthy and on-form, Tochinoshin is able to get a grip on the mawashi and lift out anyone. The health looked suspect in Kyushu, but he made it through and participated in the regional tour.
Sekiwake East Takakeisho
Kyushu 2018: Komusubi East (13-2 Yusho Outstanding Performance Fighting Spirit)
Sumo’s current man of the hour, Takakeisho is coming off a 13 win championship/double special prize performance. He just steamrolled everyone, and he is now positioned to make Ozeki with 11 wins in January. As an illustration of how bright his future is, Takakeisho was the youngest winner at any of sumo’s six divisions in Kyushu, and he did it at the very top.
Sekiwake West Tamawashi
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 2 West (9-6)
Tamawashi’s trip back down to the Maegashira ranks was just one basho long, as a 9-6 from Maegashira 2 shot him all the way back to Sekiwake. He’s been high-Maegashira to lower Sanyaku for awhile now, and what he lacks in refinement (he has none, essentially), he makes up for in raw power. Decent bet to hold his own even at a higher rank.
Komusubi East Myogiryu
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 1 East (8-7)
After a Maegashira bloodbath for Aki, Myogiryu’s spot at Maegashira 1 looked like a recipe for disaster in Kyushu. Instead, he won 8 matches at the elevated spot, including a kinboshi over the admittedly struggling Kisenosato. This is his first time back in the Sanyaku ranks in three years, so who knows how he’ll fare.
Komusubi West Mitakeumi
Kyushu 2018: Sekiwake East (7-8)
After getting his first Emperor’s Cup in Nagoya, Mitakeumi can seem to have really struggled with his newfound fame. While 9 wins followed by 7 wins dashed Mitakeumi’s ozeki chances for now, he still just turned 26, has held his own in the top ranks for two years, and has a Yusho to his credit. Still one of the better competitors.
Maegashira 1 East Tochiozan
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 2 East (8-7)
Tochiozan was in position for the joint-lead after going 5-0 to start Kyushu. After that, he only managed a 3-7, never seriously challenging for the title or even a special prize. Still, 8 wins is a Make-Kochi and a promotion, so he bumped up to Maegashira 1.
Maegashira 1 West Ichinojo
Kyushu 2018: Sekiwake West (6-9)
Ichinojo has fallen out of Sanyaku for the first time since last January. His 6-9 was the first losing record he had in 8 tournaments, and he still has a lot of talent. Nonetheless, he can appear uninterested once he starts moving backward and doesn’t look as dominant as the biggest man in the top division should.
Maegashira 2 East Nishikigi
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 3 East (8-7)
Like Myogiryu, Nishikigi looked overpromoted at Kyushu and did not get hammered as expected in November. More impressively, Nishikigi was at his highest rank ever of Maegashira 3. With 8 wins for Kyushu, Nishikigi now finds himself at a highest rank ever two basho in a row.
Maegashira 2 West Hokutofuji
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 1 West (7-8)
With Hokutofuji, it’s possible to squint and see a future Sanyaku mainstay thanks to his youth (he’s 26), size (6 feet, 362 lbs), and skill (one technique prize in his past.) He only won 7 matches at Kyushu, but he was facing the best of the best competing and got himself a kinboshi. He’s at least a solid upper Maegashira competitor at this point.
Maegashira 3 East Shodai
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 4 East (8-7)
If Sumo began standing up, Shodai might be a Yokozuna already. Alas, he has to start with a tachiai, and he has by far the worst initial charge in Makuuchi (and maybe below). His other skills make him a formidable opponent for anyone if he is standing after the opening three seconds.
Maegashira 3 West Shohozan
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 7 West (10-5)
The hometown cooking was great for Kyushu native Shohozan in November. The 34 year old put up 10 wins at Maegashira 7 in front of the home crowd, and won the match of the basho against fellow Kyushu man and schoolboy rival Kotoshogiku. Probably won’t get double digits again in January, but he is a very good veteran hand.
Maegashira 4 East Kotoshogiku
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 9 East (10-5)
Kotoshogiku is a former Ozeki who most often looks like both parts of that description at the same time. He has all of his old tricks, but he just doesn’t seem to have all of the same physical abilities. In his native Kyushu, that swung more in his favor as his signature hands-in-the-armpits, shove-them-with-the-belly technique worked to ten wins.
Maegashira 4 West Okinoumi
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 11 West (11-4)
Continuing the run of veteran rikishi who proved their best days aren’t totally behind them, Okinoumi pulled out 11 wins from the Maegashira 11 slot. The 33 year old is not very likely to do that again, as he has flirted with demotion to Juryo more than rising back into Sanyaku in the last year.
Maegashira 5 East Aoiyama
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 12 East (11-4)
Aoiyama is also a long-time Makuuchi veteran who had an unexpectedly good Kyushu basho and rose up the rankings. Aoiyama is over 400 lbs and knows how to use it, which got him 11 wins in the lower end of the Banzuke. A massive promotion makes it unlikely he will repeat that kind of performance, but he also isn’t a pushover.
Maegashira 5 West Yoshikaze
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 4 West (7-8)
Yoshikaze isn’t just a veteran, but the oldest man in the top division. Weirdly, at 36 years old, his tactic is still to just charge ahead head down and overwhelm his opponent. It’s worked well enough of late that his 7 wins in Kyushu might not be a bad guide for Hatsu.
Maegashira 6 East Chiyotairyu
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 5 East (7-8)
Chiyotairyu is a very large man even by sumo standards, and he throws all that weight at his opponent in every match as hard as he can. This strategy might not age that well, and Chiyotairyu is on the wrong side of thirty. On the other hand, he is still an absolute load to handle and managed a 7-8 at Kyushu while facing similar opponents as he will in January.
Maegashira 6 West Onosho
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 13 East (11-4 Fighting Spirit Prize)
Onosho had an 11 win Kyushu, looking like the young up and coming star was back on his way to being the talk of Sumo. That was overshadowed somewhat by his slightly younger (by one month) long-term rival (since high school) Takakeisho winning the whole thing. Onosho is still a dynamite talent and he does seem to be finding his way back from his mid-year leg injury.
Maegashira 7 East Ryuden
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 3 West (6-9)
Ryuden is a great story, as he suffered the kind of injury that would end many careers, but came back to make his way into Makuuchi due to great fundamentals and a strong fighting spirit. Still, he’s a 28 year old with limited athleticism, so his ceiling might be that Maegashira 3 rank from Kyushu.
Maegashira 7 West Daieisho
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 9 West (9-6)
Daieisho’s uneven rise through the ranks appeared to have hit the accelerator in the middle of Kyushu, as he sat at 9-2 after Day 11 and was thoroughly in the yusho race. In the last four days, he lost four straight, and that chance went away. He’s still 25 years old and 9 wins is very good for him, but his development might not happen in a linear fashion.
Maegashira 8 East Kaisei
Kyushu 2018: Komusubi West (3-9-3)
Kaisei experienced the biggest fall in the rankings between November and January, largely thanks to the fact he was unhealthy in Kyushu. He missed three days to start the basho, then looked hobbled by a bad ankle the rest of the time. If he is fully healed, the Brazilian is a large man who knows how to use his size.
Maegashira 8 West Asanoyama
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 5 West (6-9)
The Morning Mountain can occasionally look like a former Yokozuna, especially when he slips his left hand around an opponent and grabs the mawashi. Unfortunately, Asanoyama also looks like he is the easiest man to beat in sumo too often. If falling down to Maegashira 8 allows him to find some consistency, that would be good.
Maegashira 9 East Takanoiwa
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 6 East (6-9)
In what is either the most tragic or most absurd story currently in sumo, Takanoiwa was forced to retire after beating up his tsukebito after the November tournament. This is a weird reprise of last year’s big scandal, when Yokozuna Harumafuji was forced to retire for beating up Takanoiwa himself. Because he retired after the banzuke was compiled, Takanoiwa is left on the rankings despite not competing.
Maegashira 9 West Endo
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 12 West (9-6)
Long the darling of Japanese sumo fans, Endo had a very mixed 2018, with injuries marring the fact he made it to the Sanyaku ranks. His fall to Maegashira 12 was precipitous, but he bounced back in Kyushu. He never looked great, but he was the victor 9 times, which is the key.
Maegashira 10 East Takarafuji
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 8 West (7-8)
Takarafuji is 31 and has been a Maegashira mainstay for six years. He is unlikely to get double-digit wins, but his four straight 7-8 records sure do signal he is heads up to win any match in the lower half of Makuuchi.
Maegashira 10 West Abi
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 7 East (6-9)
Abi had a pretty good first year in Makkuchi, as he had 2 kinboshi, 45 wins, a Fighting Spirit Prize, and a place in the heart of Sumo fans. He will always come at an opponent with a hard double hand thrust to the neck, and he has a strong ability to dance around at the edge of the ring. Unfortunately, his three straight 6-9 records show that many rikishi have figured this particular formula out.
Maegashira 11 East Sadanoumi
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 10 East (7-8)
Sadanoumi broke his string of three-straight 8-7 records during the Kyushu basho, by going 8-7. He is definitely a solid veteran who is in on every match, although he is decidedly unspectacular. It feels like a good bet he’ll get about 7 or 8 wins in January.
Maegashira 11 West Ikioi
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 8 East (6-9)
Ikioi had a good first three basho of 2018, and a less good last three basho. His 6-9 at Kyushu was less embarrassing than his 3-12 at Aki, but still not great. Ikioi has been banged up seemingly all year, so in some ways it’s about how well he can fight through injuries at this point.
Maegashira 12 East Kagayaki
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 6 West (5-10
)A 5 win total at Kyushu sees Kagayaki tumble 6 spots heading into the Hatsu basho. He is a fundamentally adept wrestler, but his spate of injury issues in 2018 only served to highlight his below average athleticism for the top division. He is just 24, so he does have a bright future.
Maegashira 12 West Meisei
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 15 West (9-6)
Meisei is an interesting wrestler, because he’s 23 and has steadily risen up the divisions in his young career. Still, he often needs some time to adjust at each new level, and after a debut in Makuuchi in July, he fell back to Juryo. He immediately came back up and established himself with 9 wins, so he might have found this level.
Maegashira 13 East Yago
Kyushu 2018: Juryo 1 East (10-5)
Hatsu’s lone Makuuchi debutant, Yago was unlucky not to make it to the top division in November, after going 8-7 at Juryo 2 in Aki. He made sure there would be no doubts by going 10-5 at Juryo 1 East in Kyushu, and he has been rewarded with a relatively high rank. He’s got good physical attributes and is a former amateur Yokozuna, so he could make some waves.
Maegashira 13 West Kotoyuki
Kyushu 2018: Juryo 3 East (10-5)
Kotoyuki got an identical 10 wins to Yago in Juryo at Kyushu, and got a similar promotion. Their stories are very different, though, as Kotoyuki went from a Sanyaku position in mid-2016 to yo-yoing between Makuuchi and Juryo in 2018. This could be Kotoyuki’s shot to stay in Makuuchi, or just another brief visit.
Maegashira 14 East Yutakayama
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 10 West (5-10)
Yutakayama is a 25 year old former amateur standout who has had some real moments in his brief time in professional sumo. Kyushu did not have many of them, as he went just 5-10. He can recover from this, and he still has a bright future, but he needs to indicate that a little more for Hatsu.
Maegashira 14 West Chiyoshoma
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 14 East (7-8)
Chiyoshoma came into Kyushu needing to get wins so he could avoid getting sent down to Juryo. While he technically did do enough, his 7 wins saved him only because so many around him were so disastrous. He is probably fighting off demotion once again for Hatsu.
Maegashira 15 East Chiyonokuni
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 11 East (5-10)
Unbelievably, Chiyonokuni was at Maegashira 2 in July, and has since just fallen further and further. His 5-10 record during Kyushu was even helped along by one fusen win, which is rather troubling. Hopefully for him, being in serious danger of demotion might just boost his sumo.
Maegashira 15 West Kotoeko
Kyushu 2018: Juryo 1 West (8-7)
An 8-7 means that Kotoeko earned the jump up from Juryo 1 to Maegashira 15. He is certainly hoping that his second trip to the top division is better than his first, when he went 3-12 at Nagoya in July. The problem is even 7-8 would probably send him back down.
Maegashira 16 East Daiamami
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 15 East (7-8)
Although he lost more than he won at the bottom of the Banzuke, Daiamami stayed in Makuuchi thanks to at least getting 7 and having others around him do worse. There’s no reason he can’t put together double digits and establish himself as a Makuuchi mainstay, but it probably isn’t smart to bet on it.
Maegashira 16 West Daishomaru
Kyushu 2018: Maegashira 14 West (6-9)
Sitting at the very bottom of the Banzuke is Daishomaru, who landed here after just 6 wins in Kyushu. He did get 9 wins in March and May, but followed that up with two straight 5 win records. Needless to say, his early 2018 form needs to come back in a hurry.