Today’s post includes two new storylines to follow on the final day.
Who will lift the Emperor’s Cup?
It will be a maegashira yusho for only the 20th time in the 6-basho era (372 tournaments). If Shodai (12-2) can prevail over Mitakeumi and Tokushoryu (13-1) loses to Ozeki Takakeisho (his first upper-rank opponent), we will have a playoff between the two; any other outcome, and we will have a two-way tie for the lowest-ranked yusho winner in sumo history.
Who will fill the Sekiwake and Komusubi ranks at Haru?
The two regular Sekiwake slots will be occupied by Asanoyama and Goeido, while both Komusubi slots are open. Hokutofuji (11-3) and Shodai (12-2) have the strongest promotion claims, and Endo (8-6) can probably cement his by defeating Shohozan tomorrow. Will an extra san’yaku slot be created, or will someone be extremely unlucky?
Who will be awarded special prizes?
There are three special prizes (san-sho) that can be given to rikishi who’ve distinguished themselves during the basho. These are the outstanding performance prize (shukun-sho), the technique prize (gino-sho), and the fighting spirit prize (kanto-sho). Multiple rikishi can receive each of the prizes, and a prize is not awarded if there’s no worthy candidate. Only those ranked below Ozeki are eligible.
Here are some guesses as to the wrestlers the prize committee will discuss a few hours from now. The yusho winner should receive the shukun-sho, and may get a second prize. If Shodai wins, it’s possible that both he and Tokushoryu would get a shukun-sho. Each of them should get at least one of the prizes in any case. Hokutofuji seems like a strong candidate for a gino-sho or a kanto-sho. Kiribayama should get a kanto-sho, as is traditional for a Makuuchi newcomer who records double-digit victories. I am not sure if anyone else (Ryuden? Yutakayama?) will be deemed to have posted a sufficiently distinguished performance, although Enho’s name has come up in the context of the technique prize, which he won once before.
Who’ll prevail in the Darwin bouts?
Eight rikishi have 7-7 records going into the final day, when their kachi/make-koshi fate will be decided. As noted above, two (Mitakeumi and Shohozan) fight other men with a lot at stake (Shodai and Endo, respectively). The other six have been paired up, so that only one can achieve the goal of every sumotori, more wins than losses. We have Chiyotairyu vs. Kaisei, Takanosho vs. Ikioi, and Okinoumi vs. Azumaryu. All six should be safely in the top division in Osaka, and none are up for san’yaku promotion, so these battles are for pride and placement within the rank-and file. Especially for those near the bottom of the banzuke (Kaisei, Ikioi, and Azumaryu), a victory would buy a much needed safety margin for the Haru basho, while a loss would leave them teetering even more precariously on the edge of the second division.
Who could be fighting in Juryo in March?
Everyone who needed a win today got one, so we don’t have any obvious demotion candidates beyond Kotoeko (2-12), Kotoyuki (0-0-14), and Meisei (1-7-6). Basho with only one exchange between Makuuchi and Juryo are rare, but they do happen (as do ones with no exchanges); the last one was in 1999.
At the moment, the only solid promotion candidate is J4 Nishikigi (10-4). He’ll be joined by the winner of tomorrow’s bout between the man he handed the first defeat to today, J13 Terunofuji (13-1), and J6 Daiamami (10-4), while the loser of that bout will in all likelihood stay in Juryo. The J5 duo of Wakatakakage and Daishoho (both 9-5) can add their names to what would be a crowded promotion queue with final-bout victories.