After 6 days and 3 rounds of bouts, let’s take a look at the action in Makushita, where exciting newcomers mix it up with veterans for a shot at the salaried ranks.
As a reminder, the Makushita yusho race is essentially a seven-round single-elimination tournament, with the 120 or so rikishi reduced by half over two-day rounds, until one man with a 7-0 record takes the title (occasionally, same-heya rikishi and other wrinkles throw a wrench into the works, and we end up with a playoff and a 6-1 champion). Three rounds have been completed so far, and we are left with 15 undefeated wrestlers with 3-0 records. The next round, unfolding over Days 7 and 8, will reduce the number to 7 or 8.
I won’t mention all 15 rikishi with unblemished records, but the highest-ranked quartet consists of Ms1w Kinbozan, Ms4e Kamito, Ms10w Oshoryu, and Ms15e Shonannoumi. The 15 rikishi should be paired up in rank order, with the lowest-ranked Ms60e Asakoki likely to face Sd3w Tokinohira. I have Kinbozan vs. Kamito circled on Day 7.
If a wrestler in the Ms1-Ms15 ranks can go 7-0, they receive a near-automatic promotion to Juryo. The other way to stake a promotion claim is to finish with a winning record from Ms1-Ms5. After only 3 rounds of bouts, all 9 active members of this group are still technically in contention (the 10th, Ms5w Shohozan, retired before the basho). It’s too early to speculate on the ultimate outcome, but Kinbozan and Kamito are certainly off to great starts, and one more win should be enough for the former. Also doing well are Ms2e Roga and Ms2w Kanno, both 2-1. Surprisingly, none of these four have sekitori experience, while the five rikishi who do have struggled. This includes Ms3e Tomokaze (1-2; career-high rank M3), who does not look like he is back to his old self in his comeback from injury.
I’ll try to keep these reports coming every two days or so, as additional rounds of bouts are completed.