In our continuation to introduce people to the wonderful world of sumo, we are now presenting little bios on the top rikishi in the sumo world as well as rikishi to look out for who may soon be on top or have the potential to be future superstars! Enjoy!
HAKUHO “MR. STOIC”
Hakuho is currently the lone Yokozuna in sumo today. The second Mongolian to ever reach the top rank (the first being Asashoryu), Hakuho first came to Japan at an unsumo like 140lbs. Yet even though he was light in weight, Hakuho was a quick student of sumo and soon rose to the ranks of Ozeki at the young age of 21, becoming the fourth youngest rikishi to ever gain Ozeki status. After only a year at Ozeki, Hakuho gained the promotion of Yokozuna after two consecutive basho wins, the latter won with a perfect 15-0 record (also called a zensho yusho). Hakuho is currently sixth with the most basho wins at 21, closing in on legendary Yokozuna Takanohana’s record of 22 yusho wins. What makes Hakuho’s record slightly more impressive is that he has eight of them coming via a perfect 15-0 record tying the legendary Taiho and Futabayama for the record. Many critics though site that Hakuho’s zensho yushos, especially the last three have come due to the absence of the before mentioned and retired Yokozuna, Assashoryu. Recently Hakuho attempted to break the record of most consecutive wins, currently held by Futabayama back in 1936(!) at an astounding 69 straight wins. Unfortunatly Hakuho’s quest for 70 wins was cut short to 63 (still a very impressive feat), tying him for second with another legend Tanikaze who made his record back in 1782! Hakuho also holds the top record of most wins in a calendar year with 86 out of a possible 90 (which he has done TWICE, in 2009 and 2010). Asashoryu is in second with 84. Hakuho is the complete opposite of former rival Asashoryu. Where Asashoryu was the “bad boy” of sumo, Hakuho is the very disciplined tactician. While Asashoryu would smile and hug fans, Hakuho would politely shake hands or bow to the fans. While Asashoryu was very colorful, Hakuho is considered by many to be very dry. For this reason many fans are afraid that with the retirement of Asashoryu sumo, under the reign of Hakuho, will be very boring…though recently that hasn’t been the case.
HARUMAFUJI “THE LITTLE OZEKI”
Harumafuji is a Mongolian rikishi and the third to earn that rank (behind Asashoryu and Hakuho). Harumafuji was born to a Mongolian sumo wrestler who wanted his son to become a star in Japan rather than in his native Mongolia. Originally debuted as Ama, Harumafuji is considered very small by sumo standards (at only 6 feet). Like most small rikishi, Harumafuji excelled at the technical side of sumo gaining ten awards for technique so far in his career. On the eve of the January 2007 basho, Harumafuji’s father was killed in a car accident. Yet despite the lost, Harumafuji turned in a career best 10-5 record which earned him his promotion to Komosubi. In the September 2008 basho, Harumafuji scored a 12-3 record and finished in second place as well as earned his fourth Outstanding Performance award. In the following November basho, Harumafuji scored his career best 13 wins including a win over Hakuho but would lose in a playoff for the basho title to Asashoryu. Despite not winning the bashos, Harumafuji’s records and performances during those bashos earned him the promotion to Ozeki. Upon his promotion, Harumafuji changed his name from Ama to his current name and had many fans believing he could become the next Yokozuna. Unfortunately in his first basho as Ozeki, Harumafuji has a very bad basho starting out with 4 straight losses and ending the basho at 8-7. The following two bashos would be better for Harumafuji as he would score a 10-5 record and then 14-1 including winning his very first basho. It wouldn’t be until July 2011’s basho that Harumafuji would win his next basho by defeating his rival Hakuho on the 14th day and ending his record at 14-1. Harumafuji is a very talented rikishi and loved by fans due to his smaller stature. Yet Harumafuji doesn’t deal well under pressure and must break from that mindset if he hopes to become a future Yokozuna.
KOTOOSHU “THE TOM CRUISE OF SUMO”
Kotooshu is a Bulgarian Rikishi and the first European to ever obtain the status of Ozeki. Upon his debut as a rikishi, Kotooshu made the quickest rise to the top rank of Makuuchi than any other rikishi at the time in only 11 bashos (now he is tied with fellow European rikishi Aran), little less than 2 years. After three successful bashos in 2005, which included three straight runner up positions as well as victories over Yokozuna Asashoryu, Kotooshu was promoted to Ozeki, again becoming the quickest rikishi to ever obtain that rank. Once becoming Ozeki, Kotooshu was plagued with knee injuries and criticism for his lack of “true” sumo technique. Many of Kotooshu’s victories came from using a henka technique, or moving to the side. “True” sumo is always a head on forward approach, moving to the side is seen as being cowardly, though not illegal. 2006 and 2007 were not good years for Kotooshu who would barely put up double digit wins. In the May 2008 basho, facing demotion, Kotooshu put on an amazing performance including back to back wins over both Yokozunas; Hakuho and Assashoryu. On the 14th day of the basho, Kotooshu was able to beat runner up Ama to become the very first European to win a sumo basho. Since that yusho win however, Kotooshu hasn’t done very well coming only close to winning the basho again at the July 2009 basho. In 2011 Kotooshu was only able to get double digit wins ONCE all year. Many believe that Kotooshu has the ability to become a Yokozuna but doesn’t seem to have the will power to always fight at 100%. Kotooshu is considered by many of the female fans as an Ikemen, or handsome athlete, with many news outlets dubbing him the “Tom Cruise” of sumo. Kotooshu has repeatedly let it be known that he HATES that title.
BARUTO “THE ESTONIAN GIANT”Baruto is the second rikishi from Estonia, and the first to ever achieve Ozeki status. A very large and powerful rikishi, Baruto has been known to simply pick up smaller rikishi and carry them out of the dohyo. A part time bouncer in Estonia, Baruto got into sumo from his Judo coach, and soon excelled at it reaching Juryo division after only 8 bashos (the third quickest to do this). After an impressive basho debut of 11-4, Baruto suffered numerous setbacks including an injured back and a ruptured ACL. Yet by the September 2008 basho, Baruto was able to achieve Komosubi ranking and then was promoted to Sekiwake the very next basho. At Sekiwake, the young Baruto struggled, never achieving more than nine wins and ultimately being demoted after going 4-11 at the May 2009 basho. Yet in the July 2009 basho, Baruto had a strong turnout going 11-4 and then in the following September basho, Baruto became the first non yokozuna rikishi since 1986 to defeat five ozeki in one basho and finished with a 12-3 record. In the Janaury 2010 basho, Baruto scored his first ever win over Yokozuna Hakuho (after 19 matches) and ended the basho with a very respectable 12-3. In the following March Basho Baruto only had to win 13 bouts to be promoted to Ozeki, but prior to the basho he would injure his left thumb putting his promotion in doubt. In almost a storybook setting, Baruto would go on to have a monstrous basho winning 14 bouts and only losing one to Yokozuna Hakuho. In that basho Baruto woud be the first rikishi to win two separate prizes the Fighting Spirit and Technique prize since July 2007. More importantly Baruto was given his Ozeki promotion. Since becoming Ozeki, Baruto has had numerous strong showings but has yet to be in the final runnings for a yusho. Baruto is a crowd favorite because of his friendly demeanor and big smile. Many have dubbed him an Ikemen as well as the “Leornardo DiCaprio” of sumo (much to the humor of fellow European and Ikemen Kotooshu). Yet Baruto does have his faults, recently he has been reprimanded for going out in public in casual clothing, violating the sumo rule of always being in kimono or yutaka garb while a sumo basho is in progress. Some look to this behavior as a possible determent for Baruto to reach Yokozuna status.
KOTOSHOGIKU “THE GUT”
Kotoshogiku is one of ONLY two Japanese rikishi to be at the rank of Ozeki. A middle school Yokozuna back in 1998, Kotoshogiku made his way into the Juryo ranks in July of 04 and makuuchi soon after in January of 05. It wont be until March 2007 when Kotoshogiku would break into the sanyaku rank debuting at sekiwake. However Kotoshogiku would struggle in the sanyaku ranks dropping out of them by September 2007. Kotoshogiku would bounce back the next basho however with a 10-5 record to return to the sanyaku ranks. In the January 2008 record, after a hot start, Kotoshogiku would injury his knee in a match with Hakuho forcing himself to withdraw from the basho. Initially it was reported that Kotoshogiku would need surgery, but he would end up makeing a surprise reappearance in the tournament on day 12 winning three of his last four bouts and ending with a respectable 9-6 record and respect for his mental and physical toughness. From there Kotoshogiku would have up and down bashos struggling to stay in the sanyaku ranks. It wouldn’t be until January of 2011 that the Gut would start to get really hot, scoring an 11-4 record. This would lead Kotoshogiku into contention for a Ozeki promotion and it seemed he would be on course for his required 12 wins, when he defeated Yokozuna Hakuho on Day 11 for a 9-2 record at the July 2011 basho. Unfortunately he would lose his next two matches and would end just ONE short of 12 (11-4). In the next basho on Sept 2011, Kotoshogiku put on another stellar performance including another win over Hakuho putting both men at 10-2 on Day 13 of the basho. Entering the final day, both Kotoshogiku and Hakuho were still tied at 12-2 and could face each other in a yusho playoff if they each won their last bout. Sadly Kotoshogiku would lose to Ozeki Baruto while Hakuho would win his bout and the yusho. In the end though, Kotoshogiku still ended the basho with a 12-3 record and reached the 33 bout requirement (over a span of 3 bashos) to be promoted to Ozeki becoming the first Japanese rikishi to be promoted to Ozeki since 2007. In his first basho as a Ozeki, Kotoshogiku showed he still had a lot of fight in him ending with a 11-4 record. Kotoshogiku is nicknamed the gut because of his favorite winning technique involves him clinching his opponent and pushing them out with his gut!
KISENOSATO “JAPAN’S HOPE?”
Kisenosato is one of ONLY two Japanese rikishi at the rank of Ozeki and the newest rikishi to be promoted to Ozeki. For a long time Kisenosato has been seen as a future Yokozuna, debuting at the very young age of 15. In 2004 he reached the rank of Juryo at age 17 becoming the second youngest ever Juryo after the legendary Takanhohana. Three basho’s later he would enter Makuuchi again as the second youngest behind Takanohana. Once he reached Makuuchi however he struggled greatly to break into the Komosubi ranks earning much criticism as being yet another Japanese rikishi that failed to move up the banzuke. However in 2010 Kisenosato started to come alive, first in the November basho he was the one to end Hakuho’s streak of 63 consecutive victories, upsetting him on the second day of the basho. He would follow this up with another win over Hakuho in the January 2011 basho and scoring a 10-5 record. In the September 2011 basho, Kisenosato started strong with 8 straight victories but then lost three straight. He would however beat Hakuho once again on Day 12 and end with a runner up spot for the basho. With 22 wins over the last two tournaments, Kisenosato was in line for a possible Ozeki promotion if he could win 11 more in the next basho (giving him the “required” 33 wins in 3 bashos). In the Novemeber basho Kisenosato had only 10 wins going into the final day match with newly promoted Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Kisenosato would LOSE that match and end the basho with 10-5 record. However the Sumo Association believed that Kisenosato has showed enough that even with only 32 wins, he has earned the right to be a Ozeki, earning much criticism from some corners. Another angle of this story is that right before this basho, Kisenosato’s stablemaster, former Yokozuna Takanosato passed away suddenly and due to this the Sumo Association let Kisenosato slide into Ozeki. It will be intresting to see how Kisenosato does in his first basho as Ozeki come this January.