Thursday, January 25, 2007

Behind the Curtain - March 2007

As the curtain rises at the only tourney in Osaka each year, we will see 3 men step out from behind the curtain, one of which is new to wearing the silk mawashi.

Ms2e Takamifuji of Azumazeki Beya registered a 5-2 outcome last Basho and became the only wrestler new to the Juryo rank this time around.

Since Takamifuji is our first timer, let’s see what story is behind the man in the mawashi. He quit a job as a civil servant to just sumo at the rank of Makushita 15 Tsukedashi at the 2004 Haru Basho. "I realized up here, that I could not keep winning by going with only half hearted efforts. Unlike in the amateur world, you cannot survive by simply doing average things in the pro," said Takamifuji.

In his 4th year in Toyo University, he had been College Yokozuna once in his college sumo experience. However, he gave up his dream of going into professional sumo and went home to Okayama prefecture to get involved in a All Japan Athletic Tournament scheduled for 2005. He worked as a tournament organizer, "Of course I was planning to live a normal life once the Tournament is over. I was more or less thinking of spending the rest of my life in a rather secure and ordinary environment as a government employee."

Then in September 2005, he the Yokozuna title again, at the national non-college level amateur athletic sumo championship. He found that he still had a fire in his belly for competing in sumo. He talked to Azumazeki oyakata when he was in Okayama prefecture on a scouting trip, and this seems to be the turning point, Takamifuji decided to enter Sumo, "I felt I was more suited to work with sweat pouring all over my body than facing a computer all day."

The happy ending here is that when Takamifuji joined sumo, he said that his goal was to make sekitori to be able to repay his mother, Keiko, 53, who single-handedly raised him, his younger brother and two sisters.

Ms3w Hokutoiwa of Hakkaku Beya completed the Shogatsu Basho with a nice record of 5-2. This is the 3rd time he has stepped out from behind the curtain, and he has a set trend of stepping out only in the month of March. Ms1e Shiraishi of Onoe Beya notched a 4-3 record at the Kokugikan in January. Since he was ranked at the very top of Makushita, all he needed was a winning record to guarantee his ticket back into the paid ranks. He debuted in sumo 3 years ago this month.

For these three wrestlers to move into the limelight, three wrestlers must move down the ladder to make room. At this time, the demotion can only be predicted, here are the likely suspects to step behind the curtain.

J12w Wakanoho of Magaki Beya only managed 5 wins (5-10) in Tokyo, so he can expect to go back to the black cotton mawashi. His record in the paid ranks is just the one Basho but he is young and inexperienced, so another tourney or two in Makushita should see him back in front of the curtain.

J9w Sumanofuji of Nakamura Beya got only 2 wins (2-5-8) and then got hurt and dropping out on the 7th day of the tournament. He made a brief visit behind the curtain July 2005. As long as he can recover quickly from his injury, we should see him back in Juryo by the Aki Basho.

J10e Wakatoba of Oguruma Beya only got 1 win (1-4-10), hurt on day 4 and dropped out on the 5th day of the Basho. Wakatoba will be 30 years old this June, so it could be tough to fight his way back through the curtain.

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