Natsu 2021 Rikishi Preview
The Natsu basho is starting on Sunday, and you can sign up to play Fantasy Basho on Fantasizr right now. Here is a Rikishi-by-Rikishi preview to whet your appetite. All pictures from the Japan Sumo Association.
白鵬 翔 | Hakuho Sho
Last 3 Basho: 2-1-12, 0-0-15, 0-0-15
Previous Rank: Yokozuna East
Hakuho is once again the lone Yokozuna, although he is also once again out injured because of knee surgery in May. He plans to return in July, but it's fair to see this basho as a possible preview of permanent nokozuna-dom.
朝乃山 英樹 | Asanoyama Hideki
Ozeki 1 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 11-4 J, 1-2-12
Previous Rank: Ozeki 1 East
The basic assumption should probably be that Asanoyama is good for at least 10 wins if he is healthy. His ability to go well beyond the "Ozeki kachi-koshi" is down to beating his fellow Ozeki. Interestingly, he is 6-4 against Shodai, 4-5 versus Takakeisho, and a striking 0-5 against Terunofuji.
貴景勝 光信 | Takakeisho Mitsunobu
Ozeki 2 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 2-8-5, 13-2 Y
Previous Rank: Ozeki 2 East
After an injury-plagued disaster in January, Takakeisho was in the yusho race on Day 15 at Naru. At his best, Takakeisho is a force of nature, shoving opponents back from the jump. That also means his general form is easy to spot from Day One, so whether he might win the yusho can be seen early.
正代 直也 | Shodai Naoya
Ozeki 2 West
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 11-4 J, 3-2-10
Previous Rank: Ozeki 1 East
Shodai was the only Sanyaku rikishi to have a losing record in March, and it was a bare 7-8. Shodai seemed a little off, but as the best sekitori at recovering from a bad start, he still held his own. He has a Jun-Yusho in January, so the ability is certainly there.
照ノ富士 春雄 | Terunofuji Haruo
Ozeki 2 West
Last 3 Basho: 12-3 Y, 11-4 J,13-2 J
Previous Rank: Sekiwake East
Terunofuji is back at Ozeki after 3 1/2 years and an unbelievable series of injuries. In 5 Yusho back in the top division, he's accumulated 57 wins, 2 yusho, and 2 jun-yusho. He is the absolute favorite with the omnipresent warning "if he is healthy."
高安 晃 | Takayasu Akira
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 9-6, 8-7
Previous Rank: Komusubi 1 East
Naru was Takayasu's yusho to lose, and he lost it, keeping the title "Best Rikishi without a Yusho" on his head. Those basic facts can obscure that Takayasu is coming off a 10 win basho, where he more than secured his place in the Sanyaku. It seems likely he'll perform solidly again.
隆の勝 伸明 | Takanosho Nobuaki
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 9-6, 8-7
Previous Rank: Sekiwake West
Takanosho has quietly become a Sanyaku mainstay. Part of why he is maintaining his rank with small fanfare is that others are passing him by. The other reason is that he is simply maintaining his rank with bare kachi-koshi, but never having a truly outstanding basho.
御嶽海 久司 | Mitakeumi Hisashi
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 9-6, 7-8
Previous Rank: Komusubi 1 West
Mitakeumi is where he belongs, lower Sanyaku. That's better than being lower on the Banzuke, but his ceiling feels like it has come down a few notches. He does still have two yusho to his name, but he's comfortably in the right level on the Banzuke.
大栄翔 勇人 | Daieisho Hayato
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 13-2 Y, 10-5
Previous Rank: Komusubi 2 West
He didn't repeat his yusho, but he did get a kachi-koshi and hold his rank after starting 1-5. That's pretty impressive, too, and shows he belongs here. Another kachi-koshi is certainly not out of the question, and maybe he could do even better,
若隆景 渥| Wakatakakage Atsushi
Maegashira 1 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 0-0-15, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 2 West
After missing January because of COVID, which he actually had with symptoms, Wakatakakage had the kind of performance that can get a rikishi into the Sanyaku ranks. Sanyaku is extremely crowded right now, so he's just the top Maegashira. He can still make some noise here.
北勝富士 大輝 | Hokutofuji Daiki
Maegashira 1 West
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 7-8, 11-4
Previous Rank: Maegashira 2 East
Hokutofuji also had a performance worthy of Sanyaku promotion, but was crowded out. His recent pattern has been success, followed by promotion, followed by struggles. Maybe the inability to shoot too much higher will help him out for Natsu.
明生 力| Meisei Chikara
Maegashira 2 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 8-7, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 3 East
Stop me if you've heard this one, but Meisei did enough for a Sanyaku promotion if a Sanyaku slot was open to him. Since dropping into Juryo due to injury this time last year, Meisei has only put up winning records. His 10 wins at Maegashira 3 in March was his best performance ever, and now he needs to show he can build on it.
翔猿 正也| Tobizaru Masaya
Maegashira 2 West
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 6-9, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 8 West
The Flying Monkey got 10 wins as Maegashira 8, and jumped 6 ranks because of a slew of losing records ahead of him. Tobizaru has hit a career high rank, and it is fair to wonder if he will be able to handle this level. At least he will always be wildly entertaining to watch as an undersized, athletic, and skilled rikishi.
碧山 亘右 | Aoiyama Kosuke
Maegashira 3 East
Last 3 Basho: 11-4 J, 6-9, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 12 West
Aoiyama's surprise Jun-Yusho was nice to see in March, but it probably won't happen again for the Bulgarian Blue Mountain. He will miss at least the first few days due to a lower back injury
千代の国 憲輝 | Chiyonokuni Toshiki
Maegashira 3 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-5-2, 0-0-15, 10-5
Previous Rank: Maegashira 9 East
Despite being injured after the first few days, he reportedly had a thumb injury and a fractured rib, Chiyonokuni notched 8 wins before withdrawing. He's already come back from an awful leg injury and is winning in Makuuchi. Here's hoping he stays healthy enough to keep competing, because he is one of the great stories in sumo right now.
霧馬山 鐵雄 | Kiribayama Tetsuo
Maegashira 4 East
Previous 3 Basho: 7-8, 8-7, 3-12
Previous Rank: Maegashira 4 East
Kiribayama is now his stable's heyagashira (top-ranked wrestler) with Kakuryu's retirement. What he has shown is he is capable of holding his own in this range of the Banzuke. His matches have a tendency to end in notable kimarite, whether he wins or loses.
妙義龍 泰成 | Myogiryu Yasunari
Maegashira 4 West
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 8-7, 4-11
Previous Rank: Maegashira 4 West
Myogiryu will stay at Maegashira 4 West after a bare make-koshi and poor performances around him. Myogiryu is a bit odd, a veteran who relies on athleticism more than guile. Although his Sanyaku days are firmly in the past, he is a solid performer here.
豊昇龍 智勝 | Hoshoryu Tomokatsu
Maegashira 5 East
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 9-6, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 9 West
Hoshoryu has yet to set Makuuchi on fire in his 4 bashos in the top division. Yet he is winning consistently, and he won't be 22 until just after this basho. Intriguingly, he most struggles when he gets immediately overwhelmed, but can generally find a way to win the longer a match goes on.
阿武咲 奎也 | Onosho Fumiya
Maegashira 5 West
Last 3 Basho: 4-11, 9-6, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 1 West
Onosho looked like he was finding a new form of sumo, less reliant on raw power, in January's basho. At Haru, that fell to pieces. Still talented, Onosho has yet to establish any kind of consistency since his injury three years ago now.
英乃海 拓也| Hidenoumi Takuya
Maegashira 6 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 11-4 (Juryo), 7-8 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 15 West
There have been bigger surprises of late (Tokushoryu's yusho comes to mind), but it was definitely unexpected to see Hidenoumi get 10 wins after an extended Juryo run. Now he will be at his highest rank ever. That probably does not bode well for his Natsu, but stranger things have happened.
逸ノ城 駿 | Ichinojo Takashi
Maegashira 6 West
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 9-6, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 6 West
The Mammoth Mongolian went 7-8 in March, yet another middling record. Ichinojo is still remarkably difficult for most opponents to take head on, but many rikishi know they can push him back if they get a hold. Physics are the biggest determinant of Ichinojo's success, and he has been about even against the laws of nature recently.
栃ノ心 剛史 | Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi
Maegashira 7 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 4-11, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 7 East
The Big Georgian can still occasionally look like his former self, lifting an opponent over the rice bales for a victory. Most of the time now, though, Tochinoshin is relying on his brains more than his braun. In particular, he's looking more and more for opportunities to hit and shift an off-balance opponent.
宝富士 大輔 | Takarafuji Daisuke
Maegashira 7 West
Last 3 Basho: 3-12, 9-6, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 1 East
Maegashira 1 proved to be a little too much for Takrafuji at this stage of his career. He's an extraordinarily solid opponent, who rarely gets pushed back or shoved around. On the other hand, he rarely pushes back or shoves around anyone else either.
剣翔 桃太郎 | Tsurugisho Momotaro
Maegashira 8 East
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 12-3 Y (Juryo), 8-7 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 14 West
Tsurugisho's 9 wins in March vaulted him to Maegashira 8. He's only been above Maegashira 10 once, in November 2019, when he went 6-9. There is a great chance this basho could go quite poorly for him.
遠藤 聖大 | Endo Shota
Maegashira 8 West
Last 3 Basho: 5-5-5, 7-8, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 5 East
Endo has been on a streak of being basically even recently, so it makes sense he went out injured to go 5-5-5. Few rikishi have the diverse skills that Endo displays, but his indecision about how to attack a match gets him in trouble. That combined with poor injury luck doesn't bode well.
志摩ノ海 航洋 | Shimanoumi Koyo
Maegashira 9 East
Last 3 Basho: 4-11, 9-6, 11-4
Previous Rank: Maegashira 3 West
Maegashira 3 looked like it would be too tough for Shimanoumi, and it sure was. 4-11 is ugly, but it slides him back to a more comfortable and familiar part of the Banzuke.
輝 大士 | Kagayaki Taishi
Maegashira 9 West
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 6-9, 5-10
Previous Rank: Maegashira 7 West
Kagayaki still isn't putting it all together very well, despite the fact that he just looks like he should be cruising to the Sanyaku. He is talented enough to not be beat up too much, but it just doesn't come together well.
玉鷲 一朗 | Tamawashi Ichiro
Maegashira 10 East
Last 3 Basho: 5-10, 6-9, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 6 East
Tamawashi has not been this low on the Banzuke since 2016. So let's see what the big, mean Mongolian can do in this range. Of course, the reason he's here is that age is finally catching up with him.
照強 翔輝 | Terutsuyoshi Shoki
Maegashira 10 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 7-8, 5-10
Previous Rank: Maegashira 13 East
Terutsuyoshi is a very odd, but fun wrestler. He is a fairly undersized wrestler, yet relies on overpowering his opponents. This makes him strangely streaky, but usually means the match is as fun as his giant salt throw.
琴ノ若 傑太 | Kotonowaka Masahiro
Maegashira 11 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 10-5, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 8 East
Kotonowaka was just about 5% off throughout March, which was enough to stall his forward progress after 10 wins in January. He is a talented, young rikishi who should be able to compete quite well. March was a lesson he has to keep working at it.