Baruto declared early this year that his New Year Resolution was to get his first yusho. We all knew it would be coming, but we certainly didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Hats off to him, really. Let’s forget the henka on Kisenosato and the straight-up loss to Hakuho, and the fact is Baruto had 13 quality wins, which is commonly a yusho-worthy performance.
Hakuho had three losses this basho; a sloppy loss to Kakuryu, another to Kotooshu, and a henka loss to Haruma topped with an unusual tachiai. The possibility of yaocho has been brought up with regards to Hak’s losses, but I’m going to assume that more than one of his losses were legit. Based on this assumption, Bart takes the number one spot on my list. So, without further a due, Virgil Valentine’s Top Ten:
1. EO Baruto (14-1) (2)
2. EY Hakuho (12-3) (1)
3. WO Harumafuji (11-4) (7)
4. WO Kisenosato (11-4) (4)
5. ES Kakuryu (10-5) (5)
6. EO Kotooshu (10-5) (8)
7. WM1 Aminishiki (9-6) (unranked)
8. WO Kotoshogiku (8-7) (3)
9. WM2 Goeido (6-9) (unranked)
10. WM10 Gagamaru (12-3) (unranked)
Haruma edges out Kisenosato. True the Mongol lost in the head-to-head, but let’s not forget that several of Kissie’s early wins had ‘orchestrated yaocho’ written all over them (look back at Day 2 Aminishiki, Day 3 Miyabiyama, Day 6 Takekaze, Day 7 Wakakoyu, Day 9 Homasho, and even Day 10 Kotoshogiku). The only thing which stood in the way of this orchestrated yusho is the fact Baruto couldn’t read the kanji on the memo the JSA sent out. I think the number of ‘gift wins’ Kisenosato was given outweighs that henka Haruma threw on Hakuho on Day 12.
Slightly below these two in rank sits the Kak who knocked up Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kotooshu, yet shamefully dropped to Wakakoyu and Takayasu. I love the Kak, but if he keeps brining in 10-5s, he can collect a museums full of special prizes, but the JSA won’t be promoting this Mongol to Ozeki anytime soon.
Kotooshu fills the next slot with a mediocre 10-5. He knocked off an already shaken Hakuho, yet there are some losses which shouldn’t have happened (Day 7 Homasho, Senshuraku Kisenosato) and least we forget he fights one Ozeki less than the others (he doesn’t meet Kotoshogiku as they are both from Sadogatake-beya).
What follows is Aminishiki who was in the meatgrinder at maegashira 1, yet turned in a 9-6 with only one loss to a man ranked below him. It was only last July when he turned in a 2-13 from Maegashira 3, so wonderful turn-around for this injury-prone 33 year old. Next, the Geek who would be kadoban today if it weren’t for that ‘convenient’ win at 7-7 on Senshuraku to Haruma. Wouldn’t that have been a shame? Least we forget that like Kotooshu, the Geek also faces one-fewer Ozeki than everyone else?
Goeido did not exactly have a ‘good’ basho, but his 6-9 at maegashira 2 was the result of knocking off the Geek, Harumafuji, and both Komusubis. Not spectacular, but believe me, there a wide gap between #8 and #9 this basho. To finish things, out Gagamaru was miles from the meatgrinder and didn’t fight anyone above Maegashira 5, but turned in an impressive 12-3, regaining his focus and balance, and only falling three times, all to veterans and tricksters. I am aware that his November was dismal and he was on the Virgil Valentine Ugly list along with his fellow Georgians. Look at the last four basho and Gentleman Gaga has bounced from M7 5-10 in July, to M11 11-4 in September, to M3 2-13 in November, to M10 12-3 in January. I’m hoping/expecting this experience from great success at the bottom and dismal failure at the top will help him gain confidence and focus and turn in at least a kachikoshi in March, even from the meatgrinder.
Others who come close to the top ten include WM3 Takayasu 6-9, EM4 Homasho 7-8, WM4 Tochinowaka 8-7, EM5 Myogiryu 9-6, and WM8 Tochiozan 11-4, but wins and losses to each other seemed to have cancelled these men out of the Top Ten.
The Good: EO Baruto (14-1)
The guy put it all together. There was legit criticism that his focus still wasn’t there in the first week (he came very close to losing to Miyabiyama on Shonichi), but as the basho went on and he could see an Emperor’s Cup at the end of the tunnel, he gained a much better focus. Hell, he took out Wakakoyu and the gyoji on Day 4! Sumo is all about the shin-gi-tai…heart-technique-body. Baruto has long had the body, and this basho is a rare one for him when the heart came in to play as well. Technique has improved over the last few year, and he’s employing a lot more throws and fewer of those lift outs than his pre-Ozeki days. If he can hone that technique even more, we’ll have a Eurozuna who will be unstoppable.
The Bad: WS Toyonoshima (5-10)
He did have a hell of a bout against Kisenosato on Day 4 which conflicted with plans for that ‘orchistrated yusho,’ but this was his only Sanyaku win. He was 8-7 and 9-6 at Komusubi the previous two basho, but just couldn’t put things together this time. He’s a fun ‘giant-killer’ and we all know he’s a better rikishi than this. Bad basho from Toyonoshima.
The Ugly: Shenanigans from the Top; Ozeki Henkas and Yaocho in Sanyaku.
Make it stop! Orchestrated yushos by the JSA, nasty henkas by Baruto and Harumafuji, and ass-slappin’, ole’-boys-club-style yaochos. Yaocho bouts are not about trading wins for money at this rank; it’s about having a little help from your friends so we can work together to stay at the top. This is what is ruining sumo. If people don’t see it, it’s simply because they don’t want to believe it. This was the ugly side of the 2012 Hatsu Basho. It’s time the JSA and the boys at the top worked this out of their routine. The sad thing is that the sheeple don’t seem to mind.
‘Tis it for Hatsu 2012. As always I hate to see a basho come to a close, but we are just six weeks out from the stormy Haru Basho in Osaka. Until then…