Tamawashi and Shodai were promoted to sumo’s sekiwake rank for January’s New Year Grand Sumo Tournament it was announced on Monday, and the contrast between the two couldn’t be any sharper.
When the 15 days of action kicks off at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 8, Tamawashi will be competing in his 77th tournament. Only four other wrestlers have had more experience before making their sekiwake debut.
On the other end of the spectrum from the 32-year-old Mongolian is 25-year-old Shodai, who will be competing in his 17th grand tournament. Among sekiwake debutants since 1958, only former ozeki Konishiki (14) needed fewer to reach the rank.
Tamawashi finished the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in November with a 10-5 record that included wins over one yokozuna and three ozeki. He was given a Technique Prize, his first grand tournament award, in recognition of his performance.
Shodai was 11-4 at the same basho, and earned the Fighting Spirit Prize.
While Tamawashi, sumo’s ninth Mongolian sekiwake, and Shodai are currently peers, their future progress is likely to follow differing paths. Among the 11 sekiwake who took the longest time to reach that rank, only Kirishima was ever promoted to ozeki.
On the other hand, the list of the 10 fastest movers contains four yokozuna and four ozeki — including Tamawashi’s countryman Terunofuji, who is currently active.
The Mongolian yokozuna trio of Kakuryu, Harumafuji and Hakuho remain at the top of the sport’s pecking order, with Kakuryu at the summit following his championship in Fukuoka in November.
At ozeki, Kotoshogiku will be hoping for some of the good vibes he felt during his championship run last January. In Fukuoka, Kotoshogiku went 5-10 and will be demoted to sekiwake in March unless he can earn at least eight wins in January. It is his seventh tournament as a relegation-threatened kadoban ozeki.
Kisenosato, the ozeki senior statesman, is coming off a solid 12-3 record but is the only one of four men at his rank who has yet to win a grand tournament. Still, Kisenosato has been a candidate for yokozuna promotion three times in the past and a strong showing in Tokyo will likely earn him a fourth.
At the other end of the rankings, Egyptian Osunaarashi returns to the makuuchi division for the first time since July. He’ll be wrestling at No. 16 maegashira after a 9-4 record in November in the second-tier juryo division.
He will be joined by two wrestlers who will be in the upper division for the first time.
After winning the juryo championship in November, Sato has changed his name to Takakeisho. The 20-year-old will begin his makuuchi career as a No. 12 maegashira.
Also wrestling in the top flight for the first time will be 25-year-old Chiyoo, who earned promotion after going 8-7 as a No. 2 juryo wrestler in November.
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