Nagoya Day Fifteen Recap
The Nagoya basho is finished. Here's a look at each rikishi, sorted by number of wins. That means we start with the yusho winner.
Congratulations to the Crane Dragon on his sixth Emperor's Cup! Kakuryu has been in the shadow of Hakuho, and to a lesser extent Harumafuji, most of his career. Even his Yokozuna promotion was seen as lesser than, because he got bumped to sumo's highest rank after just his first Yusho rather than the typical back-to-back yusho criteria. Nevermind, he went 14-1 in two successive tournaments, even if one was a jun-yusho rather than a championship.
He is also decidedly unflashy. Kakuryu's best sumo is predicated on waiting for his opponent to make a mistake. Often, this will lead to a slap-down, and his yorikiri victories usually only come after he's been backed up slightly. That shouldn't obscure the fact that he is extremely effective. He went 14-1, handling Hakuho on the final day to seal the victory without a playoff. Here's hoping the Yokozuna enjoys his prize steaks, beer, and macarons. He earned it.
This is not the way Hakuho wanted to finish. It was Yokozuna sumo for most of the tournament, but Hakuho has established a higher level for his own career. He got surprisingly overwhelmed twice, by Kotoshogiku and Ichinojo. On the other hand, he came in with real injury concerns around his right biceps and he managed it okay. He gets more time to recover before Aki, with nothing in Nagoya suggesting he won't still be one of the favorites.
M16w Terutsuyoshi (Fighting Spirit Prize)
Terutsuyoshi entered Nagoya barely hanging onto his Makuuchi spot, with two straight 6-9 records in his two top division basho keeping him up only because other rikishi did worse. All he did was win 12 in this basho and get a Fighting Spirit Prize. He was in yusho contention until Day Fourteen. He got the same number of wins Asanoyama did at Natsu to win the Yusho. He tied Hakuho on wins. Sure, he didn't face an Ozeki or a Yokozuna, but 12 wins is a heck of a performance and Terutsuyoshi is just 24 years old.
M7w Tomokaze (Outstanding Performance Prize)
Tomokaze's very impressive tournament might be overshadowed by Terutsuyoshi's performance, especially as he lost to the smaller man on the final day. But Tomokaze got 11 wins and a kinboshi by beating Kakuryu. He is a future star, as he has never had a losing record in professional sumo, is 24 years old, and has the classic sumo champion size and build.
The two men at the bottom of the Banzuke were on fire in Nagoya, and Kotoyuki was nearly as impressive as Terutsuyoshi. Sure, he got one less win and no special prize, but he too will move well up the Banzuke in September. His newfound sumo needs to move with him.
M2w Endo (Technique Prize)
Endo was sitting at 3-5 after eight days. All he did was win for a week straight. That means he cleaned up against fellow Maegashira, but it also shows he dominated when he had to. Endo has the most techniques of any sekitori, and he showed much of them. He will push or grapple, use any grip he can, and has a special ability to turn a match around when he is at the bales. He did all of that against Hokutofuji on Day Fifteen, which probably secured his return to Komusubi.
A big question for Mitakeumi long term is whether he can go up a level to Ozeki. Short term, he is able to get winning records in Danyaku consistently, which is nothing to sneeze at. He has probably never been 100% healthy in 2019, so he could recover and make an Ozeki run over the second half of the year.
He would probably like Day Fifteen back, as he should have beaten Endo multiple times. His 9 wins at Maegashira 1 do establish that he is next in line for Sanyaku spots, even though he probably won't get there in Aki. Another one to watch for a possible Ozeki run in the next year.
Ichinojo was neither the beast who won 14 matches in March, nor the gentle giant who seems to give up too easily. Instead, he was somewhere in between, which is a massive improvement for him. If Ichinojo can win while not dominating, he could put together double digit wins in back to back tournaments. That's when he finally achieves the Ozeki (or even Yokozuna) predictions his early career success generated.
Kotoeko seems to have found ways to win in Makuuchi. Specifically, he's turned into the wise old veteran at age 27, trying not to overcommit and let his opponent make mistakes. That usually doesn't shoot you into the Sanyaku ranks, but it keeps you in the top division.
Speaking of solid veterans. Sadanoumi is too smart, efficient, and effective to get a make-koshi down here apparently. He will never come with overwhelming force, but he is able to respond to what any lower Maegashira wrestler can give him. That doesn't always guarantee wins, but it's better than the opposite.
M14w Enho (Technique Prize)
The little sekitori who could got the kachi-koshi that eluded him in May, plus he picked up the Technique Prize. There is certainly no one who fights like Enho, which is partly a product of his diminutive stature for sumo and partly due to approaching things differently. His 9 wins in Nagoya should be a launching pad to his ascent up the rankings.
If there is such a thing as a disappointing kachi-koshi, Takayasu had it. The last Ozeki standing by the middle weekend, Takayasu beat Tamawashi on Day Eight but also suffered an arm injury from a kotenage. (Tamawashi's Nagoya specialty.) He got eight wins on Day Ten, then went kyujo, like every other Ozeki. He at least won't be kadoban, or on probation, for the September tournament.
Abi needed one last win on Day Fifteen against Kotoshogiku, also at 7-7, to make kachi-koshi. He won with a crazy flying henka, which saw him leap above Kotoshogiku and push him down from the side. Abi is completely unlike any other wrestler in build and athleticism, and his predictable sumo has gained criticism. Getting to 8 wins in his Komusubi debut is impressive, but the questions will obviously remain as Abi fights to get higher in Sanyaku.
The Bulgarian Blue Mountain did his thing, keeping his opponents at arm's length with powerful thrusting attacks. That apparently is worth a bare kachi-koshi in upper Maegashira. Sanyaku will elude him for the next tournament, but he'll probably be in a similar position and might get a similar record.
After shooting into upper Maegashira for March, Daieisho got 8 wins after two straight 7-8 performances. Right now, this is his level, but like many others he is one or two improvements from being a Sanyaku regular.
Chiyotairyu was another wrestler who secured his kachi-koshi with a final day win. He has a fearsome, straight ahead tachiai and not a whole lot else. He showed he can handle upper Maegashira by varying it just enough to not be totally predictable.
Maybe Shimanoumi is an upper Maegashira all of a sudden at the age of 30. His sumo is a bit weird, simultaneously frantic and reactive, but he's making it work enough to keep winning.
Myogiryu was in the yusho race and at 8 wins on Day 10. He then lost his last five matches. Myogiryu forceful, straight ahead sumo didn't work as well when he got tougher competition, in skill if not always in rank.
Okinoumi did what he does, take on all comers best shot and try and work them to the edge. That continued to be worth about 8 wins, so he'll got a small promotion once again for September.
Yusho to make-koshi isn't great, but viewed strictly as getting 7 wins in his Maegashira 1 debut, Asanoyama's basho was a success. He is still very talented, and he never looked overmatched. Everyone was avoiding his left hand, which shows he has a weapon which changes opponents' gameplans.
Shodai really should just step back at the tachiai. He has a world of ability, but he always starts behind the eight ball. That allows way too many people to take advantage of him, but he also can turn that around often enough to win about half the time.
Kotoshogiku is probably annoyed that an Abi henka stopped him from getting his kachi-koshi. He should be pleased he came close, anyway. He was in position to get a winning record on Day Fifteen only because he beat Hakuho on Day Fourteen. The former Ozeki still has all of the skills he once did, and is only behind because of fading athleticism.
Kagayaki seems to still be finding his way back from a leg injury, although this being sumo and Kagayaki able to mount the dohyo means we won't know exactly what's wrong. He has plenty of ability, but he can't get forward pressure as often as he would probably like. That combo generated 7 wins, so a little bit of recovery might allow him to improve.
Toyonoshima was on a one-way trip back to Juryo, with a 1-5 record after 6 matches. The old veteran fought back and got enough wins to probably hold onto his Makuuchi place. (Enough wrestlers around him were awful, and Juryo's promotion candidates are not too numerous.)
Solid, dependable Takarafuji was not quite his usual self in Nagoya. He could fend off the best attacks of many opponents, but his ability to reverse the match and get the victory was not on as much display.
Onosho's balance was totally off all tournament. It's almost a miracle he got to 6 wins, because he was flying out too far forward in nearly every match. He even fell face first on the dohyo in a couple of victories. He's another sekitori who will look forward to some recuperation time.
Shohozan is fading athletically. He decided to change it up by grappling more than usual. That didn't work so well either.
Daishoho got a huge promotion coming into Nagoya, because few in lower Maegashira won in Natsu. He was overwhelmed at times, but he still seems to be rikishi learning how tod eal with wrestlers his own size and weight.
Nishikigi will continue to slide down the Banzuke, although if he does it again in Aki, he'll fall to Juryo. Nishikigi's moro-zashi grip might have been figured out. That or he is another rikishi who is just injured enough to lessen the impact of his best sumo.
Tamawashi's four wins to close out Nagoya made his tournament more disappointing than disastrous. The veteran had some footwork issues all basho, which resulted in him flying wildly around the dohyo. He could easily get double digit wins next time out in upper Maegashira; he's done it before.
Tochiozan had a deeply unpleasant tournament, looking well past his expiration date. He could be slightly injured, or he could be aging rapidly. He'll be at the bottom of the banzuke for Aki, which hopefully will allow him to find a fountain of youth.
Chiyomaru lost his last 4 matches, and 6 of his last 7. He is very big, and knows how to use it, but he also gets turned around a little too often.
It was an unpleasant Sanyaku debut for Ryuden. He is not as athletically gifted as most Makuuchi rikishi, which means his strategy and fundamentals must be on point. He seemed to lose those after getting roughed up early on.
Meisei will be glad to put Nagoya in his rearview mirror. Another rikishi who went way up the rankings, he couldn't handle the tougher competition. He will like some time off and an easier spot on the Banzuke before Aki begins.
Takagenji lost ten in a row to close out the basho. That's less than ideal, obviously, and erases any good feelings from his 3-0 start. He looks like he has an ankle problem, which gave him no forward momentum.
Yago showed a consistent ability to bottle up his opponent, but no consistent ability to turn it into anything. His sumo was flat, and he will be heading to Juryo to work on it.
Goeido came into Nagoya with a bad arm. The three wins in six matches he began the basho with were not Ozeki-like, and he decided discretion was the better part of valor. He will be kadoban next time out and needs 8 wins to maintain his Ozeki rank.
Kaisei had a problem with his lower body all tournament. Once he reached 1-11, he pulled out. He'll go to Juryo, where he should clean up if he is healthy. That's been way too much of an "if" of late, though.
Just before the tournament, Takakeisho's oyakata declared the Ozeki couldn't fight, although Takakeisho wanted to defend his Ozeki rank. That meant he would be demoted back down to Sekiwake. He will rest up and recover before then, which may allow him to get the 10 wins to immediately return to Ozeki.
Returning Ozeki Tochinoshin had no lower leg strength, which ruined any chance of him performing his signature crane lift. He went Kyujo after five straight losses, and now once again need to get 8 wins to maintain his Ozeki status.