Hatsu 2020 Rikishi Preview
The 42 men competing in Makuuchi for the first basho of 2020 have been announced. With that taken care of, we can get to the usual pre-basho Rikishi Preview.
(All photos from the Japan Sumo Association website.)
白鵬 翔 | Hakuho Sho
Last 3 Basho: 14-1 Y, 0-2-13, 12-3 J
Previous Rank: Yokozuna West
Hakuho went 14-1 for his record 43rd yusho, only succumbing to a Day Two upset from Daieisho. He doesn't quite look like vintage Hakuho, but he's probably still the best in the business. Also, for once there are few injury concerns.
鶴竜 力三郎 | Kakuryu Rikisaburo
Last 3 Basho: 0-1-14, 4-4-7, 14-1 Y
Previous Rank: Yokozuna East
Kakuryu was injured on the opening day of the Kyushu basho, but before he actually mounted the dohyo. One of the privileges of being a Yokozuna is that you can leave without demotion. He seems fine going into 2020, but he's always an injury worry at this point.
貴景勝 光信 | Takakeisho Mitsunobu
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 12-3 J, 0-0-15
Previous Rank: Ozeki 2 East
Takakeisho had little training before Kyushu, and he was still dealing with a pectoral problem through the tournament. Despite that, he got 9 wins and is the most solid Ozeki at age 23. One of the better bets on the Banzuke.
豪栄道 豪太郎 | Goeido Gotaro
Last 3 Basho: 0-2-13, 10-5, 3-5-7
Previous Rank: Ozeki 1 East
Goeido's Kyushu was probably worse than even his worst case scenario for the tournament. In his opening day match versus Endo, Goeido rolled hard over his left ankle. He's kadoban for Hatsu, and is still hurting, but says he will compete.
朝乃山 英樹 | Asanoyama Hideki
Last 3 Basho: 11-4 J, 10-5, 7-8
Previous Rank: Komusubi 2 West
The ascent of Asanoyama continued at Kyushu, with 11 wins and a Jun-Yusho. How much farther he'll go is an open question, since he lost on the final day to Shodai and was told he is not on an Ozeki run. Still, he's one of the top men in sumo right now.
高安 晃 | Takayasu Akira
Last 3 Basho: 3-5-7, 0-0-15, 8-3-4
Previous Rank: Ozeki 1 West
The awful left elbow injury Takayasu suffered during Aki never healed and he eventually had to pull out of Kyushu too. That will see him down to Sekiwake for the first time in 2 1/2 years. With 10 wins, he can get back to Ozeki, but that's a tough ask.
阿炎 政虎 | Abi Masatora
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 9-6, 8-7
Previous Rank: Komusubi 1 East
Abi has now gone 9-6 as the top Komusubi in two straight basho. That's good, but he'll want to improve. Arguably he did, looking better in Kyushu than Aki. If he reaches a new level, perhaps by doing anything on the Mawashi, watch out.
大栄翔 勇人 | Daieisho Hayato
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 8-7, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 1 East
3 straight 8-7 records has gotten Daieisho to Sanyaku. Being a Komusubi sucks, but he has beaten a Yokozuna in each of the last two tournaments. Double digit wins seems unlikely, but he'll probably stick around .500 for the basho. He usually does.
遠藤 聖大 | Endo Shota
Maegashira 1 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 8-7, 10-5
Previous Rank: Komusubi 1 West
Endo has been in essentially this spot the last two basho. He went 7-8 and 8-7. That steady, middle-of-the-road belies Endo being one of the more interesting rikishi match to match, who is as likely to grab a mawashi as push at an opponent.
妙義龍 泰成 | Myogiryu Yasunari
Maegashira 1 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 8-5-2, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 2 East
Amid the chaos of Kyushu, Myogiryu kept healthy and kept chugging along. He is 33 and looked done for two years ago, but he's come back to be a better than average rikishi. Maegashira 1 might be the limit of his winning record level.
北勝富士 大輝 | Hokutofuji Daiki
Maegashira 2 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 9-6, 9-6
Previous Rank: Komusubi 2 East
Hokutofuji couldn't handle a Komusubi rank once again, but just barely. He is a fearsome pusher-thruster on his day, but is hugely prone to hot and cold streaks, even if it usually comes out even in the wash.
御嶽海 久司 | Mitakeumi Hisashi
Maegashira 2 West
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 12-3 Y, 9-6
Previous Rank: Sekiwake East
Mitakeumi has finally dropped out of Sanyaku for the first time since January 2017. Relatedly, November 2016 was the last time he went as bad as 9-6, which he followed with an 11-4. He will certainly be motivated to get back to Sanyaku and is very good when he's on.
玉鷲 一朗 | Tamawashi Ichiro
Maegashira 3 East
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 7-8, 5-10
Previous Rank: Maegashira 4 East
This tournament will be the one-year anniversary of Tamawashi's surprise yusho. Outside of that performance, Tamawashi is a tough, strong upper Maegashira wrestler. This is really his ideal spot on the Banzuke for an 8-7.
琴勇輝 一巖 | Kotoyuki Kazuyoshi
Maegashira 3 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 9-6, 11-4
Previous Rank: Maegashira 4 West
Kotyuki is slowly climbing the rankings, which it should be pointed out he did in 2016. After making it to Sanyaku then, he got knocked all the way back to Juryo and had to yo-yo between the top two divisions a few times. But Sanyaku ability is there.
隠岐の海 歩 | Okinoumi Ayumi
Maegashira 4 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 11-4, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 1 West
Okinoumi is in slightly better territory at Maegashira 4. He's a very good, veteran rikishi who will always be on-point strategically. At 34, Okinoumi can be outclassed physically. however.
正代 直也 | Shodai Naoya
Maegashira 4 West
Last 3 Basho: 11-4 J, 3-12, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 10 West
Shodai had by far his best basho in a long time in Kyushu after getting knocked down to Maegashira 10. Now he's back facing all the top-ranked wrestlers, he probably won't repeat that performance. But he did seem to find his sumo again somewhat in November.
明生 力 | Meisei Chikara
Maegashira 5 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 10-5, 4-11
Previous Rank: Maegashira 2 West
Meisei has recently followed an odd pattern of doing really well and getting seriously promoted, then having a losing record. He has been lowered a few ranks once again, for what that's worth.
炎鵬 晃 | Enho Akira
Maegashira 5 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 9-6, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 6 West
Enho has steadily made his way towards the joi, and he's a few injuries above him away from facing Sanyaku wrestlers. It's impossible to say how his unique form, which is entirely due to his much smaller size than any opponent, will hold up in such a situation.
宝富士 大輔 | Takarafuji Daisuke
Maegashira 6 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 9-6, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 3 East
Takarafuji has recently gone from going 7-8 or 8-7 to going 6-9 or 9-6. At Kyushu, he notched a 6-9 record, for what that's worth. He's not a powerhouse, but he's also not a pushover.
栃ノ心 剛史 | Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi
Maegashira 6 West
Last 3 Basho: 2-3-10, 6-9, 0-6-9
Previous Rank: Sekiwake West
"Former Ozeki" is now probably permanently affixed to Tochinoshin. What the Georgian has to hope is that the injuries which have robbed him of so much power are not permanent. If he's back healthy, he will dominate here. If not, he's nearing retirement.
松鳳山 裕也 | Shohozan Yuya
Maegashira 7 East
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 9-6, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 8 East
Shohozan, aged 35, is firmly in his crafty veteran phase, but it's starting to work really well. In particular, he's thrown in the occasional mawashi grab, after years of being a pusher/thruster. He'll stay around as long as he can keep surprising opponents.
阿武咲 奎也 | Onosho Fumiya
Maegashira 7 West
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 9-6, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 6 East
Onosho is firmly reestablishing himself as a mid-Maegashira wrestler. For a 23 year old, that's pretty good (he's younger than anyone in Makuuchi but Takakeisho). For someone who was a Komusubi two years ago, it shows that he is still not 100% over his leg injuries.
碧山 亘右 | Aoiyama Kosuke
Maegashira 8 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 5-10, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 5 West
The Bulgarian Blue Mountain has had two rough basho in a row. Down in mid-Maegashira, he will no longer face Sanyaku. That makes him more likely to win with his trademark steady feet and parrying slaps.
竜電 剛至 | Ryuden Goshi
Maegashira 8 West
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 7-8, 4-11
Previous Rank: Maegashira 5 West
Ryuden's awkward sumo has been unable to disrupt the best men in the sport with consistency. It's still annoying for anyone to face and something he has mastered. As usual, if the match goes on awhile and Ryuden has his opponent pretzeled, he will win.
隆の勝 伸明 | Takanosho Nobuaki
Maegashira 9 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 10-5 (Juryo), 9-6 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 12 West
This is the 25-year-old's second go at sticking in Makuuchi, and so far it's going a lot better. Traditionally a pusher, Takanosho had six of his 10 wins in Kyushu by yorikiri. That kind of balance bodes well for continued success.
豊山 亮太 | Yutakayama Ryota
Maegashira 9 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 10-5, 9-6 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 9 West
University man Yutakayama always looks like he should be hurtling toward Sanyaku, blessed with prototypical size and good skills. However, that hasn't translated to overwhelming success just yet, but he is on a winning streak.
佐田の海 貴士 | Sadanoumi Takashi
Maegashira 10 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 8-7, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 8 West
Sadanoumi continues being the solid veteran of the mid-Maegashira. He will always approach a match with excellent fundamentals, which typically means he can hover right around even across a tournament.
石浦 将勝 | Ishiura Masakatsu
Maegashira 10 West
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 8-7, 9-6 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 11 East
Ishiura came back up from Juryo in September leaner and more muscular, while also featuring a sumo less reliant on tricks. Those changes have made Ishiura a more capable Makuuchi caliber wrestler.
千代大龍 秀政 | Chiyotairyu Hidemasa
Maegashira 11 East
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 2-13, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 11 West
Chiyotairyu fell well down the Banzuke after his poor Aki basho, and he did alright at Kyushu. The cannonball approach to the tachiai means he will win or lose a match in the first few seconds, but its usually pretty effective.
輝 大士 | Kagayaki Taishi
Maegashira 11 West
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 6-9, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 13 West
Kagayaki was in danger of tumbling back to juryo at Kyushu, but instead delivered double-digit wins. Fundamentally, he looked stronger than he has in awhile. If he's re-found his sumo,he is still young enough to begin making some noise.
剣翔 桃太郎 | Tsurugisho Momotaro
Maegashira 12 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 10-5, 13-2 Y (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 7 East
Tsurugisho made a good impression coming up from Juryo at Aki. He did less well at a higher rank in Kysuhu, when he notched a 9-6. A friendlier rank and a new year could see him rebound to some better sumo.
千代丸 一樹 | Chiyomaru Kazuki
Maegashira 12 West
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 8-7 (Juryo), 5-10
Previous Rank: Maegashira 13 East
Chiyomaru achieved his first winning record in Makuuchi since January 2018 in November. Whether he can repeat that feat is tough to say, but he is a very big and surprisingly agile rikishi.
琴奨菊 和弘 | Kotoshogiku Kazuhiro
Maegashira 13 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 6-9, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 9 East
Kotoshogiku seems to be sliding down the rankings one basho at a time. He is edging closer to the Juryo relegation zone, although he'd need a disaster to actually drop. The 35 year old former Ozeki has not been in Juryo since 2005 and would likely retire if he did fall that far. (He already owns an elder stock.)
琴恵光 充憲 | Kotoeko Mitsunori
Maegashira 13 West
Last 3 Basho: 5-10, 7-8, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 7 West
Kotoeko had a rather unpleasant Kyushu basho, getting pushed around and out way too often. He is one of those rikishi who is equally likely to grapple or push, but maybe he's more lucky in Makuuchi grabbing a mawashi.
照強 翔輝 | Terutsuyoshi Shoki
Maegashira 14 East
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 4-11, 12-3
Previous Rank: Maegashira 14 East
Terutsuyoshi rebounded slightly from his disastrous Aki basho. His style is very straightforward, get under and push up really hard, but works when he's faster at the tachiai. Refining that is key to him permanently moving up the banzuke.
志摩ノ海 航洋 | Shimanoumi Koyo
Maegashira 14 West
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 5-10, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 10 East
Shimanoumi had a brilliant start to his Makuuchi career in May, but has struggled of late. The basic facts about Shimanoumi are that he is 30 years old and has a bizarre, chaotic style.
東龍 強 | Azumaryu Tsuyoshi
Maegashira 15 East
Last 3 Basho: 11-4 (Juryo), 6-9, 8-7 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Juryo 1 East
Azumaryu returns to Mauuchi after one basho in Juryo, where he won a four way playoff for the yusho. That was after a one basho trip to Makuuchi after a five year hiatus from the top division. Predicting what he'll do is extremely difficult.
勢 翔太 | Ikioi Shota
Maegashira 15 West
Last 3 Basho: 11-4 (Juryo), 12-3 (Juryo), 5-10
Previous Rank: Juryo 3 East
Famous for never missing a single match, Ikioi was so beat up in early 2019 that he seemed destined for retirement. Instead, he fought from the bottom of Juryo, wroking his way into shape, and being in the four-way yusho playoff for Juryo at Kyushu. Now he's returned to Makuuchi.
栃煌山 雄一郎 | Tochiozan Yuichiro
Maegashira 16 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5 (Juryo), 5-10, 6-9
Previous Rank: Juryo 2 East
Tohciozan was in Juryo during Kyushu for the first time since 2007, when he was 20. He bounced right back up with 10 wins and is probably looking to have another extended stay in the top division.
魁聖 一郎 | Kaisei Ichiro
Maegashira 16 West
Last 3 Basho: 11-4 (Juryo), 9-6 (Juryo), 3-5-7
Previous Rank: Juryo 5 East
Kaisei too was part of the Juryo yusho playoff at Kyushu and got himself a promotion to Makuuchi after two basho in the second division. The big Brazilian has found health and still has his power and strength.
霧馬山 鐵雄 | Kiribayama Tetsuo
Maegashira 17 East
Last 3 Basho: 11-4 (Juryo), 7-8 (Juryo), 10-5 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Juryo 5 West
Kiribayama is the Hatsu basho's only Makuuchi debutante. The 23-year-old Mongolian has bounced back from two injuries in the lower divisions to make it to Makuuchi. He was also the fourth member of the Juryo yusho playoff in Kyushu.
徳勝龍 誠 | Tokushoryu Makoto
Maegashira 17 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7 (Juryo), 8-7 (Juryo) , 7-8 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Juryo 1 West
Tokushoryu has returned to the top division with simple kachi-koshi in two straight tournaments. That is not the best sign he is ready for Makuuchi. Neither is his 4-11 the last time he was here in May 2019.