Sumo | Rikishi Files

Immaturity cost Wakanoho bright future in raised ring

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

When it comes to could-have-been rikishi, the first name on most people’s lips is Futahaguro.

His controversial expulsion from the sport in 1988 makes him the only yokozuna never to have won a championship.

Futahaguro, however, at least made it to the rank of yokozuna.

Another troubled young rikishi saw a promising career come to an end just as he was coming out of his teens.

Soslan Gagloev’s arrest for marijuana possession led to his dismissal from sumo in 2008.

Fighting under a ring name (Wakanoho) that combined characters from two yokozuna, the 19-year-old Gagloev earned four straight winning records from his top-division debut and had been promoted to the highest maegashira rank.

A controversial figure among fans, Wakanoho combined a large powerful frame and excellent grappling skills with a tendency to try large leaping sidesteps at the faceoff.

His potential was matched only by his immaturity and unfortunately the Russian never got the guidance he needed in a Magaki Beya that was in constant turmoil following the death of the stablemaster’s wife and Magaki himself suffering a stroke.

Wakanoho’s age, combined with the results he was achieving both in training and tournaments against top rankers, strongly indicated that he could have been a multiple-title-winning ozeki or yokozuna had he remained in the sport.

At the end of his short sumo life he owned winning records against Kakuryu, Harumafuji (then known as Ama), Kisenosato and Goeido, among others.

It wasn’t to be, however, and after retirement Gagloev moved to the United States and started playing football in college.

He made a few appearances in amateur sumo tournaments and exhibitions in later years, but the slimmed-down former Wakanoho was a clearly a shadow of the teen that showed such promise a decade earlier.