Many of the storylines we’ve been following came to a satisfying conclusion today, but for some rikishi, a lot is still at stake on senshuraku.
The Yusho Race
Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho clinched his record-extending 41st championship with a day to go, defeating resurgent Ozeki Goeido for the eleventh consecutive time. The only thing left on the line for the winner is whether he can make this yusho a record-extending 14th zensho (undefeated) one tomorrow against fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu.
The jun-yusho (second place) race is led by Goeido and fellow Ozeki Takayasu, each with 11 victories. The 10-win chase pack consists of two Yokozuna, Kakuryu and Kisenosato, along with M15 Yoshikaze, the only other Makuuchi man to reach double digits. Kisenosato faces Goeido tomorrow, Takayasu faces Tochinoshin, while Yoshikaze goes up against 9-5 maegashira 9 Hokutofuji.
Yokozuna Kisenosato’s Return
When Kisenosato decided to enter what he himself declared would be his make-or-break basho, many of us did not think he could achieve a winning record or last the whole tournament, forcing the proud Yokozuna to retire. Instead, today he put an exclamation mark on a triumphant return, defeating fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu and reaching the “Yokozuna kachi-koshi” of 10 victories. We should see Kisenosato again at Kyushu, and while he may never be back to his pre-injury form, if he can continue to perform at his current level, sumo is better with him on the dohyo.
Ozeki Tochinoshin’s Kadoban Status
Following his withdrawal from the Nagoya basho due to injury, the big Georgian needed to reach 8 wins this tournament or lose his just-acquired Ozeki rank. It wasn’t easy, as he is not 100% recovered, but Tochinoshin scraped together 7 wins in the first 13 days, and finished the job today against Abi. Tachiai hopes to see him return to full strength by Kyushu, and be the absolute monster we know and love.
Sekiwake Mitakeumi’s Ozeki Run
It wasn’t meant to be. After a perfect 5-0 start, which included victories over Ichinojo and Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi lost 6 of the next 7, putting an end to his quest to reach the 11 victories he likely needed to reach sumo’s second-highest rank. In addition to defensible losses against the three Yokozuna, this stretch included losses against M1 Ikioi, who was winless at the time, as well as M1 Kaisei. As a result, members of the shimpan department have been making statements about the Ozeki run being over. I take this with a grain of salt. If Mitakeumi can follow up his kachi-koshi-clinching victory today that knocked Ozeki Takayasu out of the yusho race with a ninth victory against Abi on senshuraku, giving him 22 wins in two basho, then I believe that a sufficiently impressive performance at Kyushu (at least eleven victories, some against top opponents) could still earn him promotion. Of course, based on this tournament’s results, Mitakeumi’s ability to put up that kind of performance when all the Yokozuna and Ozeki are competing has to be considered in doubt.
San’yaku Demotions and Promotions
Today’s victories by Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Takakeisho ensured that all three will remain in the named ranks. Mitakeumi will continue as East Sekiwake. If Ichinojo can overcome Myogiryu (against whom he’s 2-6) tomorrow, he will stay West Sekiwake, with Takakeisho moving up to East Komusubi; otherwise, the two will switch spots.
Only one slot, vacated by Komusubi Tamawashi, will be open for promotion. If Kaisei can best Shodai tomorrow (and their 6-0 record suggests he should be able to), he will be West Komusubi in Fukuoka. Should Kaisei lose, the slot is Myogiryu’s, regardless of the outcome of his own bout, as there simply aren’t any better candidates than an 8-7 maegashira 5—it’s been that kind of a tournament for the upper maegashira ranks, aka “the meat grinder.”
The Quest for Kachi-Koshi
For seven men, each with seven victories and seven losses, whether their records end up in positive or negative territory will come down to their final bouts. For Ichinojo, this means the difference between Sekiwake and Komusubi; for Kaisei, between Komusubi (and San’yaku salary) and staying in the rank-and-file. For the other five—Asanoyama, Kagayaki, Tochiozan, Kotoshogiku, and Daieisho—the finish will only affect their exact ranking among the maegashira, but everyone want to achieve a winning record! The schedulers only give us one “Darwinian” matchup: Kagayaki vs. Daieisho.
Juryo Demotions and Makuuchi Promotions
Following Aminishiki‘s loss today, there are four men with a chance of promotion to Juryo, as well as four top-division rikishi at risk of demotion. Meisei and Daiamami have done enough to ensure their Makuuchi returns, trading places with Ishiura and Kyokutaisei. The rest comes down to the final-day results for Chiyomaru, Kotoyuki, Yago and Arawashi. A win by Chiyomaru against Juryo visitor Aminishiki would move him out of danger and shrink the number of available promotion slots to one. This slot would go to Yago with a victory, or Arawashi with a victory and a Yago loss. If both of the Juryo contenders lose, a victory by Kotoyuki might just keep him in the top division (it would be a close call between him and Yago for M16w), while a Kotoyuki loss would see Yago promoted. Should Chiyomaru lose, both Yago and Arawashi would be in with victories. All clear now?
The Juryo Yusho Race
Daiamami and Tokushoryu both reached 10 wins today, denying us the possibility of a massive 9-6 playoff and eliminating the six men with 8 wins from the race. The leaders are chased by the 9-win trio of Meisei, Hakuozan, and Enho. With only Meisei and Tokushoryu paired up, we can still hope for a five-way tie at 10-5, setting up a playoff from which, in our dreams, Enho would emerge victorious.