Natsu Basho Point-Counterpoint Debate

Alright, it’s a bit late, but here you go.  Leave your own comments below, and add to the debate.

Creswell: It’s been an entire year since we’ve seen any new blood in the Sanyaku, going back to when Kakuryu and Tochiozan made komosubi back in Natsu 2009.  However, with Baruto’s recent promotion to Ozeki and the performances we saw last basho, we seem to have a question mark as to who will be the next strong candidate for promotion to sumo’s penultimate rank.  There is no lack of young guys bouncing around in sanyaku, most are between 23-26 with at least one younger guy knocking on the door and one slightly older guy still harassing the Yokozuna and Ozeki.  Although there is no shortage of special prizes and kinboshi among them, no one in sanyaku or joi has recently had 2 consecutive 10 win bashos in maegashira (save Toyonoshima back in 2008) nor have they squeaked out a single yusho between them (and no I’m not counting Goeido’s recent 1 day tournament yusho because nobody cares about the outcome of those tournaments.)  With that in mind… Who, in your opinion, will be the next rikishi to make a successful run for Ozeki promotion?

Valentine (Matagiyama):

Here’s a good trivia question; of all active non-ozeki rikishi, who has the highest winning percentage against Hakuho?  This could be a good barometer as to who deserves to be ozeki, right?  Well, the answer…Wakanosato, with 6-8 (0.429).  He’s made a few runs for ozeki in the past, but he’ll be 34 this year and he’s plain too old for promotion to ozeki.  Okay, so who’s second?  Next?  Also from Naruto-beya, Kisenosato is 4-17 (0.190) with the Yokozuna.  Four wins doesn’t mean a whole lot under most circumstances, but also consider that only three non-ozeki rikishi have achieved that many wins against Hakuho (Wakanosato, six; Miyabiyama, four; and Kisenosato, four).  Among his contemporaries who are often considered future ozeki, such as Kotoshogiku and Goeido, Kisenosato can work under pressure.  Kotoshogiku has only managed one win over the Yokozuna while Goeido never has.

Kisenosato will be 24 in July.  He’s not too old to be promoted, even if it takes another five years to do so.  Don’t forget Kotomitsuki was promoted when he was 31.  Kisenosato is still working towards his prime.  Unlike Kotoshogiku, who gets a powder-puff run each basho by not having to face ozeki-stalemates Kotooshu and Kotomitsuki, Kisenosato faces every ozeki.  While this seems like a disadvantage in an individual basho, it’s better for developing how to deal with pressure and becoming a stronger rikishi.

If you assume that just because a rikishi has bounced around sub-ozeki sanyaku for a few years without achieving promotion means it never will happen, you’d be wrong.  Kotomitsuki had bounced around sekiwake and komusubi most basho for seven years before getting his promotion.  Recently promoted Baruto had bounced in and out of sanyaku for three years before finally becoming ozeki this basho.

The next ozeki could very well be one of those men who’ve clogged the jōi ranks here for so long.  Check the last three promoted ozeki, and where was his successor was at the time of his promotion?

Shinozeki Hakuho May 2006            Kotomitsuki was Sekiwake, and had been in sanyaku for three years with only one exception.

Shinozeki Kotomitsuki Sept 2007            Ama was Komusubi, his fourth straight basho in sanyaku.

Shinozeki Hakumafuji Jan 2009             Baruto was Sekiwake, his third straight basho in sanyaku.

I don’t think I need to get into Kisenosato’s strengths and technical advantages because I covered that thoroughly in a previous Point-Counterpoint Dicussion (see Future Japanese Yokozuna from January).  But mentally, there are just a handful of men out there who have half the arrogance and unyielding fighter spirit that Asashoryu had.  The first of those men is Harumafuji, but more so back in the Ama days.  Second is Hokutoriki, but his attitude is way beyond his strength and skill, making him just comical.  The last is Kisenosato.  Kisenosato hates losing, and hates not being at the top.

I’ll admit that seeing Kisenosato become Yokozuna is a stretch, but it is quite likely he will come up with a yusho or more before his career is up, and I expect that barring any misfortunate injuries, he will become ozeki in the next few years.

Chalmers (Shima):

Though I think that Tochinoshin is a bit young in his sumo, I still want to keep my eye on him as he bumps around the ranks in Makuuchi.  He has already proven that he no longer belongs in lower Makuuchi.  He spend a year in the lower 10-15 from May 2008, to May, ’09.  But since then he has never looked back.  Though he tends to fold when thrown in the upper Makuuchi meat-grinder, I feel that it is more so because he is young, than that he is incapable.
Having been in thet pros for 4 years, only basho of which were spent in Juryo before making his Makuuchi debut, the man is clearly still learning what it takes to share a seat in next to the Sanyaku boys.  His inconsistency thoughout the past few tournaments can be blamed on bouncing back and forth between upper and lower makuuchi.  But once the man gets used to fighting Sanyaku ranks more consistantly, then he should be able to overtake them.
As we have seen during this Natsu Basho, Tochinoshin is more than capable of beating Ozeki of any kind.  And comparing the performances of he and new Ozeki, Baruto, he is no more inconsistant than Baruto was before making Ozeki.
If you look back into the bashos leading up to Baruto’s Sanyaku promotion, they produced quite similar results rank for rank.
Tochinoshin                             Baruto
Haru 2010 M6W 9-6                Nagoya 08 M5 10-5
Hatsu 2010 M1W 5-10             Natsu 08 M1W 5-10
Kyushu 09 M8W 12-3              Haru 08 M7E 12-3
Nagoya 09 M5W 9-6                Hatsu 08 M6E 7-8
Natsu 09 M13W 9-6                 Kyushu 07 M16W 11-4
Before that , both men were both floating around in lower Makuuchi or Juryo.
Granted Baruto made is ascent to through Makuuchi faster than Tochinoshin, but Tochinoshin is merely waiting for that break in his schedule to put up the kind of numbers that will get him considered by the association.
Tochinoshin has the youth, the body, the seriousness, and the will to make it into Sanyaku.  All he needs is the practice against the upper Makuuchi guys and he should make a break for Ozeki soon.  Lower Maegashira is a waste of his time…

2 responses to “Natsu Basho Point-Counterpoint Debate

  1. Great points and excellent historical comparisons in this debate guys. I think you both make strong arguments for both rikishi and I will be surprised if these guys don’t make the Ozeki rank in the coming year or two.

    My only point of contention is that there is one other rikishi in the Makuchi now that is just as serious (and confident) a contender as Kisenosato and his name is Kitataiki. Especially after yesterday’s bout against Baruto (where he had the Shin (new) Ozeki against the bales for the majority of the bout). This guy has the tools and belief in himself to make the jump. His knee injury from a while back appears to now be a nonissue and if he can stay that way, I expect him to also be in the running for an Ozeki promotion in the coming years as well.

    Great debate guys, I hope this comment brings some other people out to share their thoughts. Good Stuff,


  2. I’m with Valentine on this one. He hasn’t been winning against the Ozeki and Yokozuna very often, but he always gives them a run, a win over the Kid is never easy (unless a dirty henka is involved.) I think if Kisenosato can hold on to sekiwake for a while and get a bit more solid when fighting the “big boys” he’ll be ready for a solid run for ozeki. A nice start would be 10 wins in nagoya in July.

    looks like he’ll probably have the Geek in the other sekiwake spot, and maybe Tochinoshin and Asasekiryu in komosubi. These are all bouts he is capable of winning.


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