Natsu Storylines, Day 9

Who will take the yusho?

No major changes to the leaderboard on Day 9. Yokozuna Kakuryu, Sekiwake* Tochinoshin, and M8 Asanoyama are tied at the top with 8-1 records, with low-rankers M14 Enho and M15 Kotoeko one off the pace at 7-2, followed by a large and motley crew of 3-loss rikishi that runs the gamut from Ozeki to M16.

What do the torikumi makers have in store for the leaders in the days to come? Kakuryu gets Abi tomorrow, likely followed by Myogiryu and Ryuden before he tackles Tochinoshin and the two remaining Ozeki. Tochinoshin faces a tough opponent in Mitakeumi tomorrow, although he leads their rivalry 7-3. He should also get Abi and either Myogiryu or Ryuden as his remaning maegashira opponents, unless the schedule makers get creative and move up Asanoyama if he’s still in the yusho race a day or two from now. Then it’s on to Kakuryu, Goeido, and Takayasu. Given how reluctant the schedulers have been to deviate from the tradition of giving the top-ranked Yokozuna his opponents in (reverse) rank order, I’m guessing the much-anticipated clash of the current leaders will take place on Day 12 or 13.

Will Tochinoshin regain his Ozeki rank?

Eight wins down, two to go. Six bouts remain, two of them against maegashira opponents.

Who will occupy the San’yaku ranks in July?

With three slots slots likely to open, the current frontrunners are Abi, Asanoyama, and Tamawashi, followed closely by Ryuden. Because of all the withdrawals in the upper ranks, it’s Abi and Ryuden’s turn to go through the meat grinder starting tomorrow, when they face Kakuryu and Takayasu, respectively.

Who will be in Makuuchi in July?

Today’s much-needed 4th win moved M16w Ishiura off the hot seat for the time being, though he still needs 4 more in the remaining 6 days. M17e Chiyoshoma, 3-5, continues to lead the demotion race, and needs 5 wins to escape an arguably overdue drop. Replacing Ishiura on the hot seat is M14 Tokushoryu (2-6), who lost his 5th bout in a row and also needs 5 wins to ensure that his lucky return to the top division lasts more than one basho. Others with work left to do are M15 Terutsuyoshi (4-5), M13 Chiyomaru (3-6), M12 Yago (3-6), and M10 Kagayaki (2-7).

Down in Juryo, J2e Takagenji (9-0) now has a 3-win cushion in the yusho race and is guaranteed to make his top-division debut in July. J1e Toyonoshima (6-3) still needs two more victories to secure a quick return to Makuuchi. J3e Kyokushuho (5-4) and J5e Yutakayama (6-3) are in with a chance if they can go 4-2 or better the rest of the way.

Who will make the jump from upper Makushita to Juryo?

The promotion contender ranks are thinning out. Undefeated Takanofuji (Ms2w, 5-0) seems near-certain to return to the second division (the Taka twins are now a combined 14-0 and are strong yusho favorites in their respective divisions). Both Ms1’s hold 2-3 records and need to win out to qualify for promotion. Hoshoryu’s loss today dropped him to 2-3 and out of contention (though he can still get his kachi-koshi to stay in the Makushita joi). Ms2e Kotokamatani (3-2), Ms3e Ichiyamamoto (3-2), Ms3w Kizakiumi (4-1), and Ms4e Ryuko (4-1) remain in contention. The 4-1 duo have already faced off, with Kizakiumi handing Ryuko his lone loss on Day 1, but the schedulers seem certain to pair up Kotokamatani and Ichiyamamoto. And in a bout that will determine one of the two Makushita yusho finalists, Takanofuji should next face none other than 5-0 Naya!

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