Thursday, June 7, 2007

Behind the Curtain - July 2007

It is that time of year for sumo to make its annual visit to lovely Nagoya, and there we will see not only Hakuho dohyo iri for the first time at a hombasho, but we will see 5 men step out from behind the curtain, 3 first timers and 2 returnees. Lets start with the first timers.

Sakaizawa (Ms1e, 5-2) has taken 8 basho to get to sekitori, pretty impressive, though it could be a direct result of having good stablemates to train with in Baruto and Satoyama. Even more impressive was Sakai beating former sekiwake, Takanowaka, in his final bout, which should sent Takanowaka behind the curtain. Then again, this guy is former Nichidai sumo club star, so he carries some high expectations on his shoulders. This will be his first appearance in the silk mawashi.

Regarding his promotion, Sakaizawa offered, "All I can say is that I'm so happy." Sakaizawa started the this May basho out 0-2 but won his last five bouts to guarantee his promotion. "My legs weren't firmly planted at first, so I had to make that adjustment. In the Juryo ranks, I want to hit straight on and charge forward." Sakaizawa indicated that his goal is to reach the same rank or better of Kotomitsuki, his senpai from their high school in Tottori. Regarding his prodigy's reaching sekitori status in just eight basho tying Konishiki and Baruto for third place all time, Onoe-oyakata commented, "That's fantastic. He has all the tools, so I think he'll do well even higher in the ranks." Sakaizawa's promotion puts the Onoe-beya in sort of a jam. With four sekitori now in the stable, there are not enough younger rikishi to perform tsukebito duties, so Onoe-oyakata indicated he will probably have to ask Chiganoura-beya for more help.

Hoshihikari (Ms1w, 4-3) first stepped on the dohyo at Fukaoka back in 2000. Since his injury, Hoshihikari has come back stronger and bigger, and with more gusto, demonstrated by his consistently impressive results in the last few basho, and he won the makushita yusho against Matsutani with a clean slate, although there was a dodgy mono-ii moment. He is another solid Mongolian wrestler to keep an eye on. This is his first time in the paid ranks.

Kitataiki (Ms3e, 5-2) joins his stablemates in the paid ranks, Kitazakura and Hakurozan. He is 24 years from Tokyo. It has taken him 9 years to step out from behind the curtain for the first time, having entered sumo way back in 1998. Kitanoumi Oyakata must be overjoyed to have another sekitori in his stable, he might have soften the grief he is dealing with ex-Juryo Kanechika at the moment.

Wakakirin (Ms3w, 7-0) steps out from behind the curtain with style, taking the Makushita Yusho with a perfect record! Back in the March 2006 issue we reported his demotion from about Day 10 at the New Year tourney when he notched his 8th loss and could only finish 4-11. The outlook is for this 23-year-old to do much better than 4-11 in Nagoya.

Takamifuji (Ms2e, 4-3) shows that it pays to be ranked on the east side of the banzuke, cause he just slips out in front of the curtain, whereas the young hopeful, Ichiahra, posted the same 4-3 record from Ms2w and will spend Nagoya in the unpaid ranks again. With Oga now officially retired from sumo, heading down to Fukaoka to open a chanko restaurant, Takamifuji needs to rise to the challenge and post 8 wins this basho, so that he can stay a sekitori along with his stablemates Ushinomaru and Takasakari. He was excellent an amateur wrestler, he has the tools to do it in Ozumo, he just needs to get the mental part sorted.

The banzuke has not been published at the writing of this article, so we can only speculate as to the who is stepping behind the curtain to make space for the 5 wrestlers discussed above. First, Tochiazumas retirement opened a slot, then Chiyohakuho (J14e, 7-8), Takanowaka (J9e, 4-11), Tochisakae (J3w, 0-11-4) and perhaps Bushuyama (J12w, 6-9) will go to the unpaid ranks for the Nagoya basho.

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