May 30, 2019

Summer Basho

Hakuho—shaping up as the most dominant sumo wrestler in history—sat out the 2019 Summer Basho with an arm injury, leaving fellow Mongolian Kakuryu as the only participating yokuzuna. Alas, with a 11-4 record, Kakuryu did not distinguish himself, leaving the door open for Asanoyama, a middle-ranked maegashira, to pick up the Emperor's Cup with twelve wins.

In any case, the 2019 Summer Basho will mostly be remembered for President Trump's participation in the awards ceremony (which was totally in keeping with the spirit of sumo awards ceremonies).

But it was the bouts of two other wrestlers that held my attention.

A previous winner of the Emperor's Cup, Georgian Tochinoshin (six-foot-six and 357 pounds) had been demoted after a two-tourney losing streak. He needed ten wins to regain his second-to-highest ozeki rank. He got win number ten on the penultimate day, concluding the tourney 10-5. If he can stay healthy (knees are a big problem for these big guys), I can see him winning again.

Ranking in sumo is similar to promotion and relegation in soccer.

At five-foot-six and 210 pounds, Enho debuted as the smallest wrestler in the makuuchi division, giving up six inches and at least 150 pounds to almost every opponent he faced. He started strong but got beaten up pretty badly the second week and finished with a 7-8 record. Still, an impressive enough performance to stay in the makuuchi. I hope to see him in the Nagoya Basho.

The manga and anime series Hinomaru Sumo features a protagonist who is too short for professional sumo and must earn an exemption by winning the high school national championship. The manga started in 2014 so reality has caught up with fiction. Though Enho (barely) meets the height requirement, he's a good example of what it means for sumo to have no weight classes.

The Summer Basho makuuchi bouts can be viewed at the NHK World website.

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