Today’s post will focus on the rikishi in the named ranks, setting up the storylines for the final six days of the basho. Both of the Day 9 highlight matches exceeded expectations. First, Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho used all of his skill and experience to best promotion-seeking Sekiwake Mitakeumi. Then, in what can justifiably be described as a career-saving victory, back-to-the-wall Yokozuna Kisenosato prevailed in a titanic struggle with kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin, himself badly in need of a victory. Judging by today, and with the matches among the upper ranks just starting, we should be in for a treat!
Kakuryu (9-0) has had an easy stroll through lower-ranked opponents so far. His degree of difficulty goes up tomorrow against Mitakeumi, and should be followed in order by bouts against Tochinoshin, Takayasu, Goeido, Kisenosato, and Hakuho.
Hakuho (9-0) has had to work harder for his undefeated record, but co-leads the yusho race nevertheless. He faces Ichinojo tomorrow, to be followed by the three Ozeki and the other two Yokozuna.
Kisenosato (7-2) has looked shaky at times, but beating obviously struggling Endo tomorrow would give him the all-important eighth win. If his record stands at 8-2 after Day 10, which would still put him in yusho contention, I don’t think we’ll hear renewed calls for his retirement even if he fades hard down the stretch against a lineup of Ichinojo, Mitakeumi, Goeido, and the other two Yokozuna, and after today I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up a couple of wins in those five bouts.
Goeido and Takayasu sport identical 8-1 records, and have both looked consistently strong this basho. Tomorrow’s highlight match pits them against each other for a chance to challenge the two undefeated Yokozuna for the yusho and a leg up in the jun-yusho race. Oh, and having clinched their kachi-koshi, they don’t have to worry about being kadoban in Kyushu.
Tochinoshin (5-4) needs to at least split his remaining 6 matches to clear kadoban and remain Ozeki. With Kakuryu, Hakuho, and Takayasu still on his fight card, tomorrow’s bout against Kaisei looks like a must-win, and their career 9-7 record only narrowly favors the Ozeki. Tochinoshin will also need to collect victories against his other two remaining maegashira opponents, most likely Shodai and Endo.
Mitakeumi (6-3) probably needs a 5-1 finish to earn promotion to the second-highest rank. After his extended battle against Hakuho today, he gets the other co-leader tomorrow. Perhaps surprisingly, Mitakeumi has defeated Kakuryu 3 times in their 7 prior bouts. After that, he still has to face Kisenosato and Takayasu, along with 3 maegashira opponents (probably Kaisei, Yutakayama, and Endo). A tough road, but not impossible.
Ichinojo (3-6) showed some life today, and will be done with the hard part of his schedule after facing Hakuho and Kisenosato. A kachi-koshi might be out of reach at this point, but he can aim for a 4-2 finish to cushion his demotion only down to Komusubi and remain in san’yaku.
Tamawashi (1-8) will face easier opponents from here on, but it comes too late for him to avoid a fall back into the rank-and file. Takakeisho (3-6) still has a chance to save his rank with a very strong finish. Neither man will feature further in the high-stakes games to be played by those above them on the banzuke.