The Yusho Race
We are down to 3 co-leaders with 10-2 records: Ozeki Takakeisho, Sekiwake Shodai, and surprise of the tournament, maegashira 14 Tobizaru, who is certain to receive a special prize in his top-division debut. Three additional wrestlers—pre-tournament favorite Asanoyama and high-performing maegashira Wakatakakage and Onosho, who were both dropped from the lead group by Tobizaru—are one off the pace at 9-3.
The schedulers are not messing around, with the top-ranked co-leaders meeting tomorrow in what has to be the match of the tournament so far. Takakeisho leads the head-to-head 7-4, but Shodai has taken the last two. The next roadblock for Tobizaru is M1 Takanosho, who has taken all 5 of their lower-division meetings. Asanoyama takes on struggling Mitakeumi, who does hold a 5-2 career edge in their rivalry. Wakatakakage takes on Terunofuji, while Onosho is matched with Takarafuji.
The Named Ranks
Takakeisho is in the lead group, and a second career title would be the start of a Yokozuna challenge for him. Fellow Ozeki Asanoyama trails by one and still controls his fate, unless Tobizaru were to somehow win out without facing him. Co-leader Shodai has successfully defended his rank, can still hope for an Ozeki promotion and, barring that, will carry a 2-basho run forward into the November tournament. West Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-5) will remain in san’yaku but still needs one win in the final 3 days to maintain his rank and three to continue an Ozeki run.
Shin-Sekiwake Daieisho (4-8) will drop from his career-high rank, and one more loss will drop him out of san’yaku altogether. Both Komusubi, Okinoumi and Endo, are make-koshi, and will be back in the rank-and-file on the next banzuke. The most likely number of open san’yaku slots is 2, but it could be as few as 1 if Daieisho wins out and limits his drop to Komusubi and as many as 3 if Shodai earns promotion. M1e Terunofuji (8-4) leads the promotion queue, closely followed by M1w Takanosho (8-4). If only one slot were to open, and Takanosho were to finish with a better record than Terunofuji, the banzuke committee would have a difficult decision to make.
Lots of losses by the demotion contenders on day 12; only Shimanoumi moved closer to safety, and Enho and Kaisei removed themselves from any danger entirely.
Certain to drop to Juryo: Abi and Kyokutaisei.
Likely to drop, barring favorable banzuke luck due to a lack of promotion contenders in Juryo and/or even worse performances by other demotion candidates: Shohozan, Ishiura.
3 wins needed: Kotoshogiku.
2 wins needed: Shimanoumi, Ichinojo, Hoshoryu*. *3 if everything breaks against him.
Not many wins among the Juryo promotion hopefuls. J2w Kotonowaka (9-3) remains the only man certain to rise to the top division. Fellow Sadagotake beya J2e Kotoyuki, 7-4, still needs a win to secure his kachi-koshi, which would almost certainly to see him promoted. J11w Chiyonokuni, 11-1, now leads the yusho race by 2 wins, and 2 more will not only clinch the championship but should return him to Makuuchi. Several other Juryo rikishi remain in the running for a lucky ticket to the top division.
As noted previously, the Makushita-Juryo exchange picture is complicated by the mandated absences and uncertain banzuke fates of J7 Azumaryu and J14 Fujiazuma. There are already two certain openings in Juryo, one created by Kizakiumi’s retirement and the other by Oki’s 0-10 sekitori debut. J14 Kitaharima (5-7) needs to win out to survive, and J12 Daishoho (5-7) needs 2. Everyone else has done enough to stay, so anywhere between 2 and 6 slots could be open.
Of the 7 rikishi still in contention in the Makushita promotion zone, only one was in action today: Ms1w Jokoryu (4-3), who got his kachi-koshi while handing Kitaharima his 7th loss, and will likely return to the salaried ranks for the first time since January 2019. Another promotion should be decided tomorrow in a Darwin match between Ms1e Takagenji and Ms3w Sakigake, both 3-3. The other 3-3 man, Ms5e Kotodaigo, will be last in the promotion queue even if he wins his final bout, and would need 6 slots to open. Ms2e Chiyonoumi and Ms4w Naya, both 4-2, and Ms5w Ura (5-1), are not on tomorrow’s torikumi, and will have to wait until the final weekend to have their fates decided.