I’m ready to get this thing started.
Isegahama beya now has 3 wrestlers in the sanyaku ranks. Terunofuji will be making his ozeki debut against Aoiyama. This will be their second bout in a row, a rematch of the Day 15 bout that sealed Terunofuji’s yusho and ozeki promotion. The shin-ozeki has dominated Aoiyama, winning all four of their previous meetings, three by straightforward yorikiri force out.
Harumafuji will need to be at the top of his game coming off surgery. He’ll be facing Myogiryu, against whom he’s had difficulty in the past, including a very disappointing, upset loss in May on Day 12 which effectively put any yusho hopes to bed. I know, there was still a chance on Day 15 but let’s face it, the odds on that massive playoff everyone wanted were minuscule and his chances of prevailing from that even smaller. Overall, Harumafuji has a slim lead in their rivalry 8-5 and has given up a gold star.
Takarafuji making his komusubi debut against Hakuho on Day 1. I’ll be praying for his survival. Hakuho is not only undefeated against Takarafuji, the connection to Harumafuji and Terunofuji will probably quite the motivating factor for Hakuho’s revenge.
I hope Kakuryu is healthy. He’ll have a tough match in his return from injury against Ichinojo. He’s been able to beat his junior compatriot twice since yielding a gold star in that epic debut last year. That makes for five Mongolians among the six wrestlers in the three premier matchups. It’s also very likely that at least one yokozuna will fall on Day 1 – if not two.
Now, for the ozeki who haven’t won yusho yet, Kisenosato will have his hands full against Tochinoshin. The big Georgian has won their last two and leads 2-1 since his return from injury. Goeido actually trails in his rivalry with Takayasu. Takayasu is always dangerous and has actually won 8 of their 13 meetings (excl. fusen win in May). Goeido has won the previous two in a row but it will certainly be a challenge to win on Day 1. Kadoban Kotoshogiku probably has the easiest day ahead against Sadanoumi. The maegashira has had nothing to really challenge Kotoshogiku in their two previous meetings. Kotoshogiku should certainly win this one if he is to remain ozeki. A loss here will be a surprise and could be a clear sign of an ozeki on his way out.
In the final sanyaku matchup, Tochiozan (my man from Kochi) will face Ikioi (my man from Osaka). I like both of these wrestlers and this will likely be a fairly even match with a skill/technique edge to Tochiozan. A surprise win here for Ikioi will give him confidence in his top bouts since he hasn’t had much success when ranked this high.