I quite liked Valentine’s top ten posting after the last basho. The idea of considering a rikishi’s strength-of-schedule is an aspect of Sumo that the great Asashoryu-Hakuho rivalry has caused me to pay too little attention to. You might think that I mean that Asashoryu and Hakuho had a rivalry with each other. I do not. I mean that they had a rivalry with all the rest of Sumo.
My long term interest in each basho was to identify the rikishi that could topple them. My more immediate interest was to pinpoint which of them was currently looking stronger. When Asashoryu got ousted from the ring by a years-long henka on the part of the JSA, my immediate interest in each sumo basho was shattered, and my long term interest seemed hopeless as upcoming rikishi after upcoming rikishi displayed not that “je ne sais quoi” quality, but rather a more “Je ne sais pas quoi croire” quality.
I tended to be mistrustful of winning streaks, wondering more and more if it was all just yaocho.
But enough about that. This basho, my interest is different. I have chosen to look at this basho through the lens of a man crush on Homasho.
• Homasho fits my idea of a good rikishi (read: he displays diversity in his sumo).
• I don’t think Homasho is at the top of his game yet (read: he hasn’t been up and down the Maegashira shoots and ladders course so many times that I have lost hope).
• When Homasho goes against opponents he is better than, he consistently wins (this leads me to believe that he has the constancy of character to be a great ozeki if he can ever push his skill level to that point).
Now, am I going to hang my hopes on whether he will get promoted at the end of this basho? Am I going to hope that he beats Hakuho? Am I going to wonder if he goes undefeated? Am I going to expect him to win the tournament? The answer to all these questions is no.
Its easy to get caught up in all those big questions, but during this tournament, I am going to focus on smaller questions. Is Homasho showing improvement? How will his performance at Maegashira 1 this year compare to his performance at Maegashira 2 last year. Will he kachikoshi? Who will he win against and what is his past record against those rikishi?
At Maegashira 1, Homasho is likely to have a strong schedule. A year ago, Homasho found himself ranked at Maegashira 2 in the Aki Basho. During that basho, Homasho faced Kaio, then Harumafuji, then Kotooshu, then Hakuho, then Baruto. He also lost to all of these rikishi.
At Maegashira 1, he is likely to face all of them again in this coming tournament. Can he beat any of them?
As Maegashira 3, in the Kyushu Basho of 2010, Hakuho picked up a yoritaoshi win over Baruto and a sukuinage win over Kotooshu. In that tournament he also faced and lost to Hakuho and Kaio.
During both the Aki Basho and the Kyushu Basho, Homasho just missed his kachikoshi – with a 7-8 record in each tournament.
The Hatsu Basho found Homasho ranked at Maegashira 4. During this basho, Homasho faced and beat Kaio with a sukuinage. He also faced and beat Kotooshu with an oshidashi. In addition to these two wins, Homasho faced and lost to Hakuho and Baruto.
In this tournament, at Maegashira 4, Homasho managed to get his kachikoshi, finishing the tournament with an 8-7 record.
I have no idea what to make of this non-basho. I am just going to leave it out of my analysis of Homasho’s performance over the last year, saying only that one of the measly three wins Homasho got in this non-basho was over Kotooshu (yorikiri).
After the Natsu Bullshit, Homasho was ranked at Maegashira 9. His record (11-4) shows that he was ranked too low, which strengthens my conviction that the Natsu Bullshit was… bullshit.
As Valentine noted in his Top Ten of the Nagoya Basho, Homasho’s schedule was weak; weaker even than a Utah beer. Homasho didn’t face any of the ozeki or the yokozuna.
He did face (and lose to) Kaisei and Kotoshogiku.
Homasho vs. Kaisei
I am expecting Homasho to start to consistently beat Kaisei over the next few bashes. Kaisei is like Baruto of yesteryear. His size confuses better rikishi, but they will soon learn to deal with it. At that point, Kaisei will either learn to fight better (as Baruto has) or he will not (as has happened with Kotooshu).
Kaisei is still too fresh for me to care about, except in that he will be a training ground for how to beat Baruto. Baruto’s sumo is now good enough that it is not an easy thing to separate his bulk from his skill. The two combined make him formidable. Kaisei has the bulk, but not the skill. This could give Homasho a chance to experiment in order to improve his skill against Baruto.
Kotoshogiku vs Homasho
This is the real test for my prediction the Homasho will be the next Ozeki. I don’t think that Kotoshogiku has the consistency of performance or diversity of technique to perform at a high level, but I do think he is a good rikishi. He may even get lucky and promote to Ozeki in this tournament – thus dashing my hopes for Homasho.
Whether Kotoshogiku promotes or not, I will be watching carefully to see if Homasho manages to pull a win out over Kotoshogiku in this tournament. Homasho has been consistently losing to Kotoshogiku, and I feel that surpassing Kotoshogiku is Homasho’s next step up the Sumo ladder. It is a step that I am happily nervous about: I wonder whether Homasho will be able to rise to that level.
What’s your spotlight for this tournament?
I’d like to open the comments section of this post to all the rest of the contributors and readers on the website to tell us why you are watching this basho. Who are you interested in? What are you interested in? Why are you interested in that aspect? Don’t feel that you have to write a lot or in great detail, even just writing the name of a rikishi you like would be interesting.