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SUMO ABC No. 90 / Top-ranked wrestlers in low-level battle for this year’s most wins

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Ozeki Tochinoshin, right, is pushed out by Shodai on Saturday, Day 6 of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterOne of the coveted achievements of grand sumo tournaments is the most wins throughout the six tourneys held in a calendar year.

This year, ozeki Tochinoshin and yokozuna Kakuryu were tied for the No. 1 spot with 51 victories each heading into the final Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, which is currently being held.

Since Kakuryu skipped the ongoing tournament, Tochinoshin is now likely to win the most bouts for the year, though the final result is still uncertain. The second-winningest wrestler was sekiwake Mitakeumi with 46 bouts. He won his first-ever title earlier this year and is now aiming to become an ozeki. Among those following Mitakeumi were ozeki Takayasu with 44 wins, and sekiwake Ichinojo and komusubi Kaisei, both with 43.

In any event, it is a low-level battle this year. The banzuke ranking looks gorgeous with the names of three yokozuna and three ozeki listed, but the stats reveal how poorly the top-ranked sumo wrestlers have performed in 2018.

Due to an injury he suffered during the Spring tournament last year, yokozuna Kisenosato missed four tournaments earlier this year. As a result, he has won just 11 bouts this year — including 10 wins in the previous tournament. To make matters worse, the injury-ridden yokozuna was forced to withdraw during the middle of the ongoing Kyushu tournament without adding any wins to his tally.

Fellow yokozuna Hakuho won his 41st title at the previous tournament with a 15-0 record, but he’s racked up only 29 winning bouts overall in 2018 before skipping the current tournament, his fourth withdrawal this year. Kakuryu won two tournaments this year but barely managed to get 51 wins because he missed two tournaments.

Looking at the ozeki, Tochinoshin has been doing well since he won the New Year tournament as a rank-and-file makuuchi wrestler. After the Summer tournament, he was promoted to ozeki, but unfortunately, he stopped competing midway through the Nagoya tournament, the first tournament in which he participated as an ozeki.

Takayasu also missed the entire Summer tournament, which affects this year’s results. Ozeki Goeido stopped competing midway through the same tournament, resulting in a total of 42 wins.

No top-ranked wrestlers have managed to compete in all the year’s grand tournaments. This situation could be called a lack of substance to an outwardly impressive banzuke ranking. In fact, the situation last year was worse: Hakuho barely managed to maintain the dignity of the yokozuna rank by winning 56 bouts.

Fifty-six wins is the lowest number of annual victories since 1958, when six grand sumo tournaments began being held each year. Top-ranked wrestlers are reaching a time of generational change, but there are no young wrestlers who can surpass them.

This harsh reality lies behind the race for the most wins in a year.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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