After two straight championships, yokozuna Kakuryu sits atop the rankings for the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament that the Japan Sumo Association published Monday.
While the 32-year-old Mongolian goes for a grand tournament title hat-trick, much of the attention at the 15-day event at Dolphins Arena will be on the newest member of the sumo elite, Georgian ozeki Tochinoshin.
At 30 years, 7 months when the tournament kicks off on July 8, Tochinoshin, who has battled back from knee surgery, will be the fourth-oldest wrestler to ascend to sumo’s second-highest rank. He is also the first ozeki from Georgia, and the third European after Bulgarian Kotooshu and Estonian Baruto to reach that rank.
While Tochinoshin is the No. 2 west ozeki, the two wrestlers ahead of him, Goeido and Takayasu, will be fighting to retain their ranks in Nagoya. Goeido is coming off a 3-6 record with six days off due to injury in the May tournament, while the injured Takayasu sat out the last basho.
As kadoban ozeki, both Goeido and Takayasu will need a minimum of eight wins to avoid demotion to sekiwake for September.
The sekiwake rank has two familiar faces. The 225-kg Mongolian Ichinojo, who scraped out eight wins in May, is listed on the east, while Mitakeumi, who wrestled as a komusubi in May after five straight tournaments at sumo’s third highest rank, is on the west.
Two wrestlers return to the komusubi rank for the Nagoya tournament. Tamawashi, coming off an 8-7 record as a No. 1 maegashira, will be at the sport’s fourth-highest rank for the first time since last September. And 34-year-old, 145-kg Shohozan brings his high energy and aggressive style to the komusubi rank for the first time since March 2014.
Rank-and-file wrestler Chiyonokuni makes the biggest jump in the rankings. Having gone 12-3 in May as a No. 11 maegashira, Chiyonokuni, who will turn 28 on July 10, enters the tournament as the second-ranked west maegashira.
Two wrestlers will make their debuts in the elite makuuchi division in July — No. 14 maegashira Kotoeko and No. 16 Meisei. Wrestling as a No. 2 juryo, Kotoeko was a runner-up in sumo’s second tier in May with an 11-4 record.
Onosho, May’s juryo champion, will also be fighting in the top tier as a No. 11 maegashira after just one tournament in the second tier.