The Yusho Race
Kakuryu’s loss to Tomokaze today, combined with Hakuho’s victory, leaves the two Yokozuna tied at the top of the standings with 12-1 records. Because they will face each other on the final day, at least one of them will end up with no more than two losses, and therefore 3-loss Tomokaze is out of the race. Still in it, however, is 2-loss M16w Terutsuyoshi! The last man on the banzuke, who is short in stature but not in fighting spirit, must win out and hope that each Yokozuna picks up another loss, in which case he would be an extremely improbable playoff participant. His formidable opponent tomorrow is M1w Hokutofuji, followed on Day 15 by perhaps Tomokaze or Mitakeumi. Kakuryu has Mitakeumi tomorrow, and their record is almost even at 6-5. Hakuho faces Kotoshogiku, whom he’s defeated 56 times in 61 meetings on the dohyo.
Here are the yusho scenarios:
- Both Yokozuna win on Day 14: their Day 15 bout decides the champion.
- Both Yokozuna lose: their Day 15 bout decides either the champion or Terutsuyoshi’s playoff opponent.
- One Yokozuna wins, the other loses: The winner can claim the championship with a Day-15 win. The loser can force a 2-way or 3-way playoff.
Excitingly, we now know that no matter what happens tomorrow, the Day 15 Yokozuna face-off will definitely have the highest of stakes for both rikishi! We haven’t seen a playoff since Harumafuji’s memorable victory over Goeido at Aki 2017, and the last one between two Yokozuna was all the way back in January of 2014, with Kakuryu prevailing over Hakuho on that occasion. The last playoff to feature more than two wrestlers was the March 1997 battle royal in which Takanohana outlasted Akebono, Musashimaru, and Kaio.
Mitakeumi’s 8th victory means that he’ll remain East Sekiwake for Aki, with Takakeisho dropping down into the West Sekiwake slot. Abi avoided his make-koshi today, and still has a chance to hold on to the East Komusubi slot with two more victories. He will try to pick up his 7th tomorrow against Ichinojo, whom he has yet to beat in 3 tries. Hokutofuji’s 8th victory today solidified his lead in the san’yaku promotion queue, with Endo (8-5) hot on his heels. The only other rikishi still hanging on to promotion hopes are Tomokaze, Aoiyama, Ichinojo, and (barely) Daieisho, who would need a second slot to open.
- Definite demotions from Makuuchi: Kaisei, Yoshikaze, Yago.
- In serious danger of demotion: Tochiozan.
- Will be safe with one victory: Chiyomaru.
- Probably safe, but could use another win: Toyonoshima, Takagenji.
- Definite promotion from Juryo: Tsurugisho.
- Likely promotion, but could use another win: Ishiura.
- Should earn promotion with another win: Azumaryu, Yutakayama.
- Still nursing promotion chances: Takanosho, Chiyoshoma, Wakatakage.
Ms1 Irodori won his “exchange bout” with J12w Ryuko, sending the latter to Makushita and most likely earning a slot in Juryo. J14w Kotonowaka staved off demotion for now, but still needs two victories to stay in the second division. It is likely that either 3 or 4 slots will Juryo slots will be open, although the J10 duo of Chiyonoumi and Arawashi, both 5-8, are not completely out of the woods yet. Two of the slots should go to Ms1e Seiro (4-2) and Irodori. The others in contention are Ms2w Hoshoryu, Ms3e Tamaki, and Ms4w Kaisho, all 3-3, and Ms5w Wakamotoharu, 5-1. Tomorrow, we have a “Darwin bout” between Hoshoryu and Tamaki and a Juryo test for Kaisho against Arawashi. Wakamotoharu’s fate will be decided on the final day, in what I’m guessing could be an exchange bout against Kotonowaka.