Phew! It seems like almost no time has passed since the last basho! This is partially because of the US Sumo Nationals occurring in the past month as well as the interviews that we have hosted with Justin Kizzart, Ed Suczewski, and Helen Delpopolo. I also have to give a shout-out to Tachiai.org for producing quality content between bashos, along with the wonderful content of Chris Gould on YouTube. These sumo content creators have really shifted into high gear recently, and I have been loving reading and watching everything that they’ve had to say.
Of course, the Haru Basho 2019 has a lot to watch. In the makuuchi division, everyone wants to know whether Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Tochinoshin can bounce back from lackluster performances. While Hakuho posted a record of 10-4-1, he was very disappointed that he could not grab the yusho. Everyone also wants to know whether Takayasu and Goeido can begin a string of dominant performances to make a rush towards yokozuna, whether Tamawashi can repeat his stellar performance to get another yusho, and whether Takakeisho will finally reach ozeki status. The latter of these seems inevitable, but it may happen sooner rather than later.
As always, jūryō has a lot of interesting storylines, too, particularly those revolving around Enho, Gagamaru, and Aminishiki. The other lower divisions likewise have fun things to watch, including Hoshoryu, Kizakiumi, Tsukahara, and, of course, Hattorizakura. But what is the status of the North American Rikishi?
Musashikuni Mamu came so close to the kachi-koshi, posting a 3-4 record. Fortunately, he only slipped down six spots, and he is now resting at makushita 42 east. Wakaichirō Ken had a very strong performance with a 5-2 record, which placed him at sandanme 99 west. Below is a chart of their career rankings, and you can click here to open a full-size version. Even further below, I discuss expectations for Musashikuni and Wakaichirō in the Haru Basho 2019. As always, please email us at NorthAmericanSumo@Gmail.com if you have any questions, comments, or article requests!
Musashikuni Mamu and the Haru Basho 2019
Musashikuni allegedly still has an ankle injury, but you couldn’t tell it based on his performance last basho. He looked very strong in most of his matches, and his movements seemed to be deliberate and calculated. Nevertheless, he posted a losing record, which just goes to show how difficult the makushita division can be sometimes.
With a winning record in this basho, though, Musashikuni has the opportunity to exceed his prior ranking, and perhaps join the upper-mid of the makushita division. To achieve this goal, Musashikuni needs to (a) win matches that he should win and (b) continue playing towards his strengths. In some of Musashikuni’s matches last basho, he was the clear favorite and had every opportunity to win the bout, but he unfortunately came up short in some of these matches. You can never expect a kachi-koshi after dropping one or two winnable matches in the makushita division. For instance, in the gif below, Musashikuni was bigger, stronger, and more talented, but he allowed his opponent to take advantage of the moment.
On the other hand, Musashikuni played towards his strengths in some matches too, which resulted in easy victories. In this match, for instance, he steamrolls for the impressive win.
I expect Musashikuni to have a 4-3 record in the Haru Basho 2019. I still think he will be near the top of the makushita division at the end of the year, but it may take all year to get there. Only time will tell, however.
Wakaichirō Ken and the Haru Basho 2019
Wakaichirō better lived up to his expectations last basho, obtaining a 5-2 record after two consecutive 2-5 records. Because Wakaichirō was under-ranked, he was stronger, more agile, and more skillful than most of his opponents. This allowed his typical approaches to win with ease; however, these same approaches may not result in victories as easily in the sandanme division.
For Wakaichirō to post another stellar record, he really needs to (a) remain healthy and (b) continue honing his skill set. Wakaichirō’s biggest nemesis is his injuries. Whenever he has a poor performance, he always has multiply body parts bandaged. Whenever he has a good performance, he may only have his ankles and wrists taped up. Hopefully Wakaichirō enters the basho with minimal bandages.
Also, Wakaichirō is young, so he is still developing his skill set and identifying his favorite approaches. This sometimes results in losses because he is trying out a new technique, and that is okay. For Wakaichirō to string together more victories, he needs to continue developing this skill set. It won’t happen overnight, but he is steadily improving in his sumo abilities. In the gif below, for instance, he clearly shows that his opponent was no match for Wakaichirō’s tachiai.
Next, we see that Wakaichirō’s tachiai was again no match for his opponent, who had to resort to a sly side-step. Fortunately, Wakaichirō was too agile for the maneuver, and he still secured the victory. Go Wakaichirō!
Last time my prediction was spot-on, and I hope it is again this time. I predict that Wakaichirō will land a 4-3 record in the Haru Basho 2019, which will allow him to climb further up the sandanme division – where he belongs!