The new rankings will be announced and mailed to supporters on March 1. In advance of this much-awaited event, let’s take a look at how they are likely to shake out.
The named ranks
These should be very straightforward. The absent Yokozuna will keep their positions, with Hakuho on the East side and Kakuryu on the West. As a consequence of his dismal 2-8-5 performance, Takakeisho will fall to East Ozeki 2, behind East Ozeki Shodai and West Ozeki Asanoyama, who will stay in their current order after identical 11-4 performances.
Just like in September, we will have 3 Sekiwake, and also like in September, the extra rank will go to Daieisho after his yusho-winning 13-2 performance from M1. He should be ranked behind the successful incumbents, East Sekiwake Terunofuji (11-4) and West Sekiwake Takanosho (9-6), with the slight wrinkle that his rank will be West Sekiwake 2 to balance out the solitary East Ozeki 2 rank on the banzuke.
Finally, East Komusubi Takayasu and West Komusubi Mitakeumi both went 9-6 and will stay at their ranks. Since the number of wrestlers in the top division is fixed at 42, 10 san’yaku ranks leaves room for only 32 maegashira, meaning that we won’t see an M17 rank for the first time since November 2019.
Scroll down if you just want to see the projected banzuke. I’ve written about my process for arriving at the predicted rankings before, so I won’t belabor it here, but I will make a few notes on this particular set of predictions.
- I left the five maegashira absent due to COVID outbreaks in their heya at their current ranks, as this did not seem unfair to any of the participating rikishi and in several instances helped avoid even bigger under-demotions or over-promotions.
- I’d be surprised to see any major departures from the official banzuke for the M1e-M7e ranks (Takarafuji through Kotonowaka), where the only decision I wrestled with was how to order Shimanoumi and Kiribayama.
- The trickiest area of the banzuke for me was M7w-M10e, especially the M7w rank. Placing the next available kachi-koshi rikishi here, M14e Hoshoryu, which is what I ended up doing, represents an extremely generous promotion of 6.5 ranks for someone with a 9-6 record. On the other hand, giving the slot to the best-positioned make-koshi rikishi, M6w Kagayaki, would mean only a one-rank demotion for a 6-9 record. Kagayaki has received some very lenient treatment recently, but this seemed like a step too far, so I placed him at M8e, splitting Hoshoryu and M14w Midorifuji (also 9-6). With Chiyonokuni locked in place at M9e, I have M4e Tochinoshin (4-11) at M9w, just ahead of M7w Tobizaru (6-9), but flipping these two wouldn’t surprise me, nor would any number of more extensive rearrangements among these rikishi.
- One rikishi is unquestionably going down to Juryo: M17e Sadanoumi (5-10). Highly likely to join him is M13e Akua (5-10). The Juryo promotion picture is complicated by a whopping 7 COVID-related absences in the top 10 ranks, but three rikishi made credible cases for promotion: the yusho winner J8e Tsurugisho (12-3), Tobizaru’s big brother J6w Hidenoumi (11-4), who is looking to return to the top division for the first time in three years, and the highest-ranked man competing, J1w Daiamami (8-7). I project that all three will be in Makuuchi in March, which means that I needed to find another demotion candidate, and I’ve gone with last January’s unlikely champion, M8e Tokushoryu (3-12). He could survive, but I’d hate to guess at whose expense. The only other remotely plausible promotion candidate is J8w Daishomaru (11-4), but he is clearly behind the other 3, and I don’t think his case is strong enough to push down M15e Yutakayama (7-8).
With all that out of the way, here’s the projection. Let me know what you think in the comments.