Early Speculation on the Haru Banzuke

As sumo withdrawal starts to kick in, let’s look ahead to March and consider who might be fighting at what rank in Osaka.

The upper ranks

This part of the banzuke, at least, should be clear. Since both Yokozuna picked up one win before pulling out, they’ll retain their relative positions, with Hakuho appearing at Y1e for a record-extending 52nd time, while Kakuryu will be listed at Y1w. Takakeisho will continue as O1e. He will be the only Ozeki on the banzuke for the first time since January 1982 after Goeido failed to get 8 wins, Takayasu failed to get 10, and Asanoyama (10-5) did not quite do enough for promotion, though he did enough to have another shot at it in March.

The lower san’yaku

Asanoyama will continue his reign as East Sekiwake. Beyond that, things are less clear. At the moment, we have four rikishi vying to fill the remaining three regular slots. Goeido is guaranteed the rank of Sekiwake, but there is speculation that he may retire instead of trying to re-ascend to Ozeki with 10 wins. M4w Shodai (13-2), M2e Hokutofuji (11-4), and M1e Endo (9-6) have all done enough to earn a san’yaku rank, and to force an extra slot to be created if necessary. Goeido’s retirement would make this simple, most likely with Shodai ascending to S1w and Hokutofuji and Endo occupying the East and West Komusubi ranks, respectively. This trio may well hold the same ranks even if Goeido fights on, with the ex-Ozeki ranked S2w.

The upper maegashira

With the san’yaku ranks either holding at 8 or dwindling to 7 for the first time in the modern era, the top 16 (the joi-jin) will extend down to M4-M5, and with likely withdrawals in the upper ranks, rikishi ranked as low as M6 may face multiple san’yaku opponents, as Takarafuji and Tochinoshin did this basho. Who will occupy this part of the banzuke, which was commonly referred to as “the meat grinder” when those ranked there served as mere fodder for powerful upper-rankers, but now offers kinboshi and promotion opportunities?

I am expecting two demoted san’yaku rikishi, K1w Daieisho (7-8) and S1w Takayasu (6-9), to occupy the M1 ranks. M2 should be filled by two rising rikishi, M9w Yutakayama, 11-4, (you’re welcome, Bruce) and M4e Okinoumi (8-7). M2w Mitakeumi (7-8) should see a minimal drop to M3, where he’ll be joined by the “matta king” M8w Ryuden (10-5). Filling out the upper maegashira ranks will be M5w Enho (8-7), who’ll once again reach a new career high, M7w Onosho (9-6), the yusho winner M17w Tokushoryu (14-1), demoted East Komusubi Abi (5-10), M1w Myogiryu (5-10), and M11w Kagayaki (10-5).

The Makuuchi-Juryo exchanges

J4e Nishikigi (11-4) earned a definite return to the top division. He’ll be trading places with the one obvious demotion, M13w Kotoeko, who, with only 2 wins, will be falling deep into the second division.

The second-best promotion case, and one that should be compelling, belongs to J6e Daiamami (11-4). But whose place would he take? The only candidates are M14w Shimanoumi (6-9), who would normally be considered to have done just enough to stay, and the two absentees: M3w Kotoyuki (0-0-15) and M5e Meisei (1-7-7). Given that Tomokaze was demoted last time (ironically, in favor of the yusho winner Tokushoryu, whom most predictions had staying in Juryo) from the same position as Kotoyuki, that might be the way to bet purely for the sake of consistency. Once again, were Goeido to retire and open up an extra slot in the top division, Daiamami could move up without the need to demote any of the three.

The other Juryo rikishi who should receive some consideration are J2e Kotonowaka and J2w Hidenoumi, both 8-7, but I don’t think their rank-record combinations are quite enough to force down any of the bubble rikishi from the top division. J5e Wakatakakage (9-6) made a late push for an immediate return to the top division, but his final-day loss will keep him in Juryo for another basho. J5w Daishoho (9-6) blew what looked like a near-certain promotion with 4 consecutive losses to close the tournament. And the Juryo yusho winner, J13w Terunofuji (13-2), will also have to wait after dropping his last two bouts to Nishikigi and Daiamami.

Two exchanges would be the fewest in 5 years, while only one exchange hasn’t happened in over two decades.

22 thoughts on “Early Speculation on the Haru Banzuke

    • Wakamotoharu, Midorifuji, Chiyonoumi, and Hakuyozan will be promoted for sure. They’ll take the places of Irodori, Toyonoshima, Sakigake, and Sokokurai. The other possible promotion is Akiseyama, who would have to be exchanged for either Tomokaze or Chiyootori. Not sure which of the three gets the last Juryo slot, but if i had to guess, I’d say Akiseyama goes up and Chiyootori goes down.

  1. I have a very similar early prediction for the top magashira ranks: Daieisho, Takayasu, Okinoumi, Yutakayama, Ryuden, Enho, Mitakeumi, Onosho, Abi, Myogiryu, Tokushoryu and Kagayaki in that order. I have Shimanoumi as the unlucky one to drop out

  2. The speculation about Goeido is not exactly speculation. His oyakata says they will consult about this and make a decision within two or three days (that is, in time for the banzuke meeting).

    My guess: on the one hand, there’s the home crowd to push him in Osaka. But on the other hand, he may know that he doesn’t have the ability to pull 10 wins when he just had 10 losses, in which case, he will be severely disappointing his home supporters. We’ll see in a couple of days.

    • I would hope his supporters would rather see him give it the old college try at home than retire right before Osaka. If he doesn’t do well, sit kyujo and really try to heal…come back in September or November…but no one ever listens to me.

      • Doesn’t sound like he’s interested in coming back as a rank-and-filer (totally understandable and not uncommon for a long-serving Ozeki).

        • so understandable
          rank-and-filers generally don’t enjoy the high level of ‘support’ that (some) ozeki of recent years are accustomed to

          for goeido, dropping down is the real meat-grinder
          burning sho’zan! went out of his way to demonstrate that for him; some kind of payback or grudge bout there

          the gloves are off now
          opposite of the kid glove treatment required to keep king of kadoban on ozeki throne

  3. Yutakayama and Onosho in the joi-jin. Very good. With Hokutofuji and Endo in San’yaku. The stage is set. We just need the Yokozuna to sit it out again. I don’t assume Shodai will be a force in March, but I am ready to be proven wrong.

    Should Goeido go intai, everyone moves up a half rank in your projection, correct?

    • Actually, I don’t think everyone will move up if Goeido retires. We’ll simply have the regular 4 junior san’yaku ranks (instead of 5 if he sticks around), and add 18e at the bottom, allowing Shimanoumi, Kotoyuki, and Meisei to all stay, unless we see some very lucky promotions for Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi.

    • The Yokozunas sitting out really could accelerate the quest of the next Ozeki. How many potential ozeki runs come out of this basho?

  4. Goeido’s retirement means we have one extra slot available at the bottom, so it looks like two down and three up or two up and one down. Nishikigi and Daiamami up, and Kotoeko down are obvious now. I have m18e as a tossup between Kotonowaka and Shimanoumi.

      • Except last time when Tomokaze lost out to some fat, washed-up juryo guy who was bound to get annihilated in makuuchi… what was his name again?

        • Haha, that was actually a pretty clear call “by the numbers.” The question was whether customary leniency would be shown for the injured rikishi, and it wasn’t.

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