Welcome to 2012 in sumo. Sorry we’ve been so quiet for the past few weeks, but aside from the banzuke being released not that much has happened. Well, 10 oyakata got together and recorded a single. Led by Nishonoseki-oyakata and under the creepy, doll-like, gaze of sekitori-kun Hiyonoyama (that ubiquitous yellow bird), the 10 elders laid down a some fat beats titled “Hiyonoyama Counting Song”.
Finally, the JSA has come up with some good, level-headed, and well thought out ideas to increase ticket sales, and make the sport popular again, while paying homage to sumo’s enormous wealth of cultural heritage, all while retaining quiet dignity and aplomb. The only down side I can see now is that word is coming out that Shikoroyama-oyakata is feuding with Suge Knight and Soulja Boy Tell ’em. For those who want to procure a copy, it will be available at the Kokugikan all throughout the basho. Now, down to the report.
Let’s talk dynamics. How is this basho going to play out? Another day 12 or 13 yusho for Hakuho? Probably. So I won’t even go into Hakuho. We have a top and bottom heavy banzuke… I know that sounds like it would be balanced but it’s not. The Yokozuna, Ozeki, and Sekiwake are solid (Kotooshu being an exception), and we have folks that are usually up in joi down in the middle and bottom of the banzuke. Mid maegashira is going to get chewed the fuck up, and not everyone up top can get those 10 wins.
There is the chance for a really exciting basho, I still, for obvious reasons, HEAVILY am predicting a pretty definitive Hakuho yusho, but something is telling me there will be a monkey wrench or two along the way. Now on to the analysis. (Hakuho omitted due to no need to go on for more than three words… well 1 word and two pseudo-words: He’s. Gonna. Win.)
Baruto has no lack of skill, and strength, but has trouble with mental stamina. The new year holiday break may have set him back a little bit, so I see him dropping a few, but not to anyone unexpected. 11-4, maybe 12-3.
Kotoshogiku has looked darn solid the past few basho, and I don’t see any reason for it to stop. The worst thing he could do is “settle in” to his rank. He needs to keep pushing himself as if every bout counts, because for him it still does. Any halt in momentum at his rank could lead to bad things. But like I said I don’t see any reason for him to decline at all. 11 wins maybe more… who knows, with the komusubi/joi ranks looking like they do this basho he might surprise us with a junyusho.
Kotooshu is pretty much a non-factor now. He is the epitome of having “settled in” to ozeki. I haven’t seen any real drive in his sumo in a few years. Until something lights a fire under his ass I won’t predict more than 9 for him. Added to that, he got an “arm injury” in a recent keiko session, sounds like some one is already building their alibi.
Harumafuji is due. I kind of hate that term, even though I use it all the time when watching baseball and a power hitter is on a dry spell. He’s good enough that two 8-7 scores in a row is one too many. I expect him to do well this basho, yusho or junyusho might be pushing it, but I’d like to see him over 10. The problem is with Harry, you never know. He could drop a few he didn’t mean to early and pick up an injury, being smaller he is more prone to hurt himself. I don’t like to make predictions for him, so I won’t.
Kisenosato has been the talk of the town all winter. Every single keiko report has been nothing but write-ups about Kise. he went 14-12 against all the other ozeki, and, fair enough, has been training hard. I would not be surprised if the JSA manufactured a yusho for him. They handed him an ozeki promotion, and it’s obvious that the J-crowd kind of digs him. It’s also equally obvious that Hakuho wants to reach 25, but he has showed that he is a team player, so Kise’s got a decent chance to yusho this year, but it won’t be this one. 10-5, 11-4 at the most.
The sekiwake are interesting, and they say when you have solid sekiwake, you have a solid tournament. Kakuryu and Toyonoshima are both solid, skilled, and can hang at this rank. Like I mentioned before Komusubi – M3 are weaker than normal, and that will be a nice boost for these two, with a few ozeki scalps in the mix.
Like I mentioned Komusubi through M3 are all over ranked. Miyabiyama is too old, slow, and predictable for Komusubi. Wakakoyu is a bit quicker, but I don’t think he’s really sanyaku material, at least not yet. He’s gonna have a tough time in the meat grinder. Aminishiki is too old and injured to beat anyone except Kotooshu consistently, and everyone up top has caught on to Takekaze’s game. He’s never picked up more than 8 wins in joi, and I see this being no different, he’s pick up maybe 4 or 5 wins.
M2 is not a bad rank this time. But it’s also not good. Okinoumi is getting better with each basho, and I would be surprised if he was not in the one of the soon to be vacant komusubi slots come March. Goeido, on the other hand, just can’t get his shit together, and will end up with maybe 8 maybe 9 at the most, I predict 7.
M3 – I’m not saying Kitataiki and Takayasu are bad rikishi, because they’re not. They are both good rikishi, but Takayasu is a bit too high on the banzuke, and Kitataiki has never done well at this rank. That being said, if both guys can get a good strong start, and build some momentum, they might not do so bad. Taiki will most likely pick up 6 or 7 wins. Takayasu maybe 5 or 6.
M4 I have no complaints here. Homasho has really turned himself around lately, and Tochinowaka is quietly building steam too. Both will KK, I think either of them has a good chance to pick up a special prize this basho.
Here is where things get murky. On-again-off-again cats like Toyohibiki, Tokitenku, Yoshikaze (sorry DeGama), and other such marshmallow men are all jumbled up in here with a bunch of new guys, and a few who are under ranked. M9 Tochinoshin, M8 Tochiozan, and M10 Aran are probably going to have an easy basho. All 3 will probably get 10 or so, which means their pocket, or crux, or crucket, or whatever the hell it is, is going to look like a grenade went off. You know what, throw Tosayutaka in there too, he’s under-ranked, and can fight well this far down… but maybe 8 or 9 for him.
There are also the sophomores. Kaisei(although not really a sophomore, more like a junior) should do well, if healthy, probably getting around 10 or so. Myogiryu, Shohozan, and Aoiyama should also do pretty good.
The new guys are a mixed bag. Takanoyama is back and can beat most of the guys at the bottom, but he is really situational, and needs to stay focused. He’s one I’ll enjoy watching. Chiyonokuni , Tenkaiho, Nionoumi, and Kyokushuho are all good rikishi, but frankly I don’t see any of them doing so well this go round. Maybe one or two of them will KK, If I had to bet, I’d put my money on Tenkaiho and Chiyonokuni or Kyokushuho.
Juryo is also going to be a bit of a shit show. There are 5 or 6 makuuchi mainstays in the top 10, but below that everything looks pretty even. There are also some decent newbies to look forward to. Chiyotairyu (former Meigetsuin), Russian born Amuru, and Homarefuji (just for the Homer Simpson jokes). Also, will Ikoi be able to keep up with the pace he set in Kyushu? Now that I think about it, juryo might end up being as (or more) exciting to watch than makuuchi this go ’round.
All that being said. We here at S&S hope you enjoyed your holiday season. But now it’s time to come in from the snow, turn up the heat, pour the whisky, spark up a smoke, turn on your favorite oyakata pop hits, and watch some sumo. Hakkeyoi!