The top two ranks went exactly as expected: Terunofuji remains the lone East Yokozuna. Shodai (6-9) takes over the more prestigious East Ozeki rank from Takakeisho (1-3-11) by virtue of his less disastrous performance. And newly promoted Mitakeumi (13-2) occupies the lowest spot of the trio (O2w) as a newcomer to the rank; he is on the West side to balance Terunofuji on the banzuke.
I correctly predicted that the two Sekiwake slots will be occupied by M1e Wakatakakage (9-6) and M6w Abi (12-3), in that order. This is a career-high rank for both, and the first time we have two brand-new Sekiwake since Hatsu 2017, when the rank was shared by Tamawashi and Shodai. I also correctly predicted that the two Komusubi slots will be occupied by S1w Takanosho (7-8) and M6e Hoshoryu (11-4), in that order.
The Maegashira Ranks
Let’s look at what I considered my prediction’s biggest areas of uncertainty, and how they played out.
- How will they solve the M1e-M3e puzzle? Exactly as I predicted, with K1w Daieisho (7-8) at M1e, followed by the 8-7 trio of Ura, Ichinojo and Tamawashi moving up in tandem by half a rank each, and M5e Onosho (10-5) drawing the short straw for M3e.
- In contrast to the logjam at the top of the rank-and-file, we have a giant hole in the middle (starting at M7w), which can only be solved by a slew of under-demotions and over-promotions, but how exactly will the banzuke committee accomplish this? The banzuke committee went with extreme under-demotions for make-koshi records, essentially decoupling the number of losses from the size of the drop. 6-win Tobizaru drops only half a rank, as does 5-win Shimanoumi, which I believe is completely without precedent. Even 4 wins and 11 losses only cost Chiyoshoma two and a half ranks. And that’s just a sampling of several historically lenient demotions on this banzuke.
- How high will J2w Kotoshoho (11-4) go? Despite his top-division pedigree, the banzuke committee placed the Juryo yusho winner all the way down at M14e, three full ranks lower than I predicted, in order to accommodate the above-mentioned under-demotions.
- How will the other divisional exchanges play out? As predicted, M9w Hidenoumi, M17w Kaisei (5-7-3), M16w Tsurugisho (6-9), and M18e Oho (7-8) were demoted to Juryo. Also as predicted, Kotoshoho, J2e Nishikigi (9-6), J1 Kagayaki (8-7), and J4w Kotokuzan (10-5) were promoted. But I got the last rank, M17w, wrong—it goes to M14w Ichiyamamoto (5-10) over J5w Azumaryu (9-6), continuing the under-demotion trend.
In all, my prediction had 28 of 42 rikishi at the exact spot, plus 4 others at the correct rank but on the wrong side. My biggest miss was the aforementioned Kotoshoho, with Shimanoumi and similarly leniently treated 5-win Myogiryu my only other misses by more than a rank and a half.
Haru Banzuke Observations
The joi (the top 16 rikishi who mostly fight each other) is absolutely lit, and if their performances live up to expectation, the Haru basho should be a blast. Shodai and Takakeisho will be fighting for their Ozeki rank, while Wakatakakage, Abi, Takanosho and Hoshoryu will seek to defend their places in the named ranks against the likes of Daieisho, Ura, Ichinojo, Onosho, and Meisei.
Oh, and tying up a loose end. Some readers might recall that Ms4w Tochimaru (4-3) was initially announced as one of the promotions from Makushita to Juryo (which would be his sekitori debut), but then wasn’t on the official list. There was speculation that this might have been due to rank protection for Shiden, who was judged not to have responsibility in the gambling incident that also involved Hidenoumi. Well, Shiden is down at Ms11, and instead, Tochimaru was passed over in favor of under-demoting J13e Kotoyusho (6-9)—anyone sensing a theme here?
Finally, the top 5 Makushita ranks, where the fight for promotion to Juryo takes place, is loaded, with exciting up-and-comers Kanno, Nishikawa, Dewanoryu, Oshoma, and Fukai being joined by Hokuseiho, who just sneaks in to the promotion zone at Ms5w. The battle for sekitorihood will be fierce.