With the results of the Haru basho in the books, we can start to forecast how the rankings will get reshuffled for the next tournament. As usual, I will write a full banzuke prediction post once I’ve digested the results, but we can look at the general outlines now.
Yokozuna and Ozeki
The senshuraku clash between Hakuho and Kakuryu was not only for the yusho, but also for banzuke position. With his victory, Hakuho will once again be ranked on the more prestigious East side for the 53rd time in his superlative career.
Word on the street is that Asanoyama will officially get the nod to ascend to sumo’s second-highest rank on Wednesday. He’ll join the incumbent (now kadoban) Takakeisho, and as a newcomer to the rank, will be placed on the West side. Oh, and the presence of two bona fide Ozeki on the banzuke means that Kakuryu won’t have to fill in as a Yokozuna/Ozeki again next time.
Sekiwake and Komusubi
West Sekiwake Shodai (8-7) successfully defended his rank, and should slide over to the East side to fill the opening created by Asanoyama’s impending promotion. Both incumbent Komusubi will fall out of the named ranks—Hokutofuji after a disastrous 4-11 tournament and Endo as a result of a surprisingly lackluster final-day loss that dropped his record to 7-8. This means that we need one new Sekiwake and two new Komusubi.
Two candidates are clear: M3w Mitakeumi (10-4), who I believe will be the West Sekiwake despite fading to a 1-3 finish. Mitakeumi returns to san’yaku after a two-basho absence that ended a streak of 17 consecutive tournaments in the named ranks. His 19th appearance in lower san’yaku will tie him with Goeido for 7th most this century. M1e Daieisho (8-7) will make his second appearance at Komusubi after a one-basho absence.
Who will be West Komusubi? This comes down to the breakout man of the tournament, M9e Takanosho (12-3), and an old steady hand, M2e Okinoumi (8-7). Takanosho has a slightly stronger case “by the numbers”, but I believe that the large disparity in rank, Okinoumi’s tougher schedule, and his track record of six past san’yaku appearances (he was last Sekiwake at Kyushu 2016) will see the veteran get the nod.
Which rank-and-filers will get to battle the named ranks in the next tournament? The term “joi-jin” (or just “joi”) is often used to describe the upper rankers and the maegashira who serve as their opponents. Typically, this group contains the top 16 men on the banzuke, although the line is blurred by withdrawals, avoidance of same-heya matchups, etc. In any case, with the san’yaku ranks set to grow to eight, rikishi ranked M1-M4 will be firmly in this group.
I’ll try to work out the most likely order later, but the top four maegashira should be Endo, Takanosho, Yutakayama, and Onosho. M3 should be filled by Takarafuji and Kagayaki (or possibly Kiribayama). There are four contenders for M4: Kiribayama (or Kagayaki), Abi, who could hang on to the current M4w with his minimal 7-8 make-koshi, Hokutofuji, and Aoiyama, who could rise all the way from M13 with his 11-4 final tally (not surprisingly, he and Takanosho will be making the biggest leaps up the rankings).
While the final-day results greatly clarified the picture toward the top of the banzuke, they left the exchange situation a bit muddy. Three demotions are certain: Tsurugisho, Daiamami, and Azumaryu. Tochiozan also appears set to drop to Juryo, with his final-day victory being too little, too late. And the Juryo results (and the disappearance of the M18 rank) will likely force down Meisei after he was unable to secure his kachi-koshi on the final day.
That’s 5 likely open slots in the top division, but there are 6 strong promotion cases in Juryo. J1e Kotoyuki (8-7) has the weakest case numerically, but the strongest historically: the top man in Juryo has failed to get promoted with an 8-7 record only twice in roughly the past 50 years. J2w Wakatakakage (10-5) and the Juryo champion J6e Kotoshoho (12-2) should be locks for promotion, the former returning after his promising debut was interrupted by injury and the latter making a much-anticipated debut of his own. It’s not completely clear whether J3e Terunofuji (10-5) is head of J5e Kotoeko (11-4), who has one more win from two ranks below, but both should have strong enough cases to force down Meisei.
That’s 5 up and 5 down. Who else could be at risk? Recent demotions of absent M3 Tomokaze and Kotoyuki to J1e strongly suggest that M1 Takayasu (0-5-10) is safe, as does the fact that the last time an M1 was demoted was 1798! M15w Chiyomaru (7-6-2) should also be safe, especially given that his three-day absence was involuntary. That leaves one Makuuchi man on the bubble: M14w Nishikigi (6-9). Nishikigi has a history of escaping demotion with records that could easily send him down, and he may do so yet again: J4e Tobizaru (10-5) is likely one win short of making his own top-division debut after final-day victories by Nishikigi, Kotoyuki (by default!), Kotoshoho, and Kotoeko. That’s a lot of results to go against you.
As I noted yesterday, the Juryo demotions seem to be set at three—Yago, Asagyokusei and Tomokaze—while there are four promotable rikishi at the top of Makushita: Ms2w Kotodaigo (4-3), Ms3e Asabenkei (6-1), Ms3w Fujiazuma (5-2), and Ms4e Chiyonoo, who moved to 5-2 today after his defeat of J10 Takagenji. Asabenkei and Fujiazuma should join the sekitori ranks for sure, while Chiyonoo’s one extra win might also jump him over higher-ranked Kotodaigo. I don’t think the banzuke committee will over-demote Mitoryu or Chiyonoumi to free up a 4th slot for one of them. In any case, while we’ll have to wait for the rest of the banzuke to be released on April 27 (Japan time), we’ll find out about the Juryo promotions on Wednesday.