By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterTochinoshin, who won the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament as a rank-and-file makuuchi wrestler, returned to the rank of sekiwake in the banzuke ranking for the spring tournament set to begin March 11. It will be his 59th tourney since his promotion to the uppermost makuuchi division. The rikishi reclaimed the rank for the first time in 10 tournaments. Often said to resemble Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage, the Georgia-born wrestler has steadily risen in prominence.
Tochinoshin employs a straightforward wrestling style. When positioned to shove an opponent with a two-handed grip on the belt, he can produce power equivalent to that of an ozeki. He previously only relied on strength during matches. In the previous basho, however, his forward movements were strong and he charged and repeatedly pushed his opponents. He pulled his opponent’s belt while charging, which amplified his brute strength.
Tochinoshin himself recognizes the change in his performance. At a press conference after the banzuke announcement, he expressed his determination by simply saying, “I’ll move forward and take an aggressive approach.”
Though expectations are rising that he may be promoted to ozeki should he perform well, Tochinoshin remarked, “It’s still too early [to talk about promotion]. I’ll do my best this tournament.” This is a commendable comment that shows he knows his strengths.
In contrast to his straightforward style in the dohyo ring, Tochinoshin has an expressive face. He looks just like an oni devil as he furrows his brow while pumping himself up. In the previous basho, he tightly closed his eyes immediately after his first victory of the tournament, taking in the occasion. He surely recalled the 12 years he has committed to the dohyo ring.
In the dressing room after bouts, however, a placid look returns to his face. He enjoys chatting with reporters, occasionally flashing charming smiles.
Tochinoshin looks just like a Japanese wrestler when wearing a kimono after having his topknot done by a tokoyama hairdresser. Many foreign rikishi endure greater hardship than other wrestlers, which seems to make their expressions more poignant.
Wrestlers who recently have won a title as a makuuchi wrestler often fare poorly in the following tournament. Kyokutenho, who became the No. 1 maegashira wrestler after his 2012 victory, finished with a 2-13 record the next tournament, though Kotomitsuki, who won in 2001, managed to earn a kachikoshi of 9-6, but waited another six years to become an ozeki. Takatoriki, who won in 2000, put up a 2-13 record in the subsequent tournament as a komusubi. The spring tournament promises excitement as we await Tochinoshin’s performance.
— Miki is a sumo expert.
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