Congratulations to Tamawashi on a well-deserved second yusho. He displayed Yokozuna-grade sumo on his way to a powerful 13-2 championship, two wins clear of anyone else. Along the way, he defeated the Yokozuna, all three Ozeki, two Sekiwake, and all of his direct challengers for the yusho head-to-head. In doing so, Tamawashi becomes the oldest modern champion, only the second man to win two yusho without reaching Ozeki, and arguably the best wrestler below that rank of his generation. Oh, and he’s accomplished all this while being the only sekitori and one of only four rikishi in his heya—the other three being his Makushita-ranked brother-in-law and two recent recruits in Jonidan. This is how the man has to train:
Now, let’s take a look of what the results of the Aki basho mean for the November rankings. With only a handful of wrestlers posting more than 10 or fewer than 5 wins, this is generally not a banzuke with a lot of big movements, unlike last time.
Yokozuna and Ozeki
Y1e Terunofuji will remain the sole Yokozuna, though I expect to see him on the banzuke but not on the dohyo in Kyushu. O1e Takakeisho (10-5) will stay at that rank, as will O1w Shodai (4-11), who will be kadoban and need a winning score to avoid losing his rank. O1w Mitakeumi (4-11) will lose his rank after just 4 basho and fall to Sekiwake, where he will have one chance to record 10 wins for immediate re-promotion.
S1e Wakatakakage (11-4) will stay at that rank and aim higher. With his 19 wins at Sekiwake in the past two basho, an Ozeki promotion in November is not out of the question, especially given the current state of that rank, but it would probably take a yusho with a score of 13-2 or better. More likely, a good November performance would lay the foundation for a January promotion. S1w Hoshoryu (8-7) will join Wakatakakakage at the rank, while Mitakeumi will occupy S2w.
This is where things get interesting. K2w Kiribayama (9-6) clinched a stay at Komusubi but didn’t do enough to warrant a promotion to Sekiwake without a slot being open; I expect him to move to K1e. The other incumbents, absent Abi and 6-9 Ichinojo, will drop into the rank and file. That leaves one open slot, but more than one rikishi has a strong claim.
One is S2e Daieisho (7-8), as no Sekiwake with that record has been dropped to maegashira since 1992, and we’ve had about 50 instances since then. The other two are our champion, M3e Tamawashi (13-2), who seems impossible to deny, and the equally compelling surprise of the basho M1e Tobizaru (10-5), as no top maegashira with a winning score—much less double-digit wins—has missed out on promotion in over 50 years. So I am pretty sure that we will have four Komusubi, although their order is debatable. As that is already the most we’ve ever had, M4w Takayasu (11-4) is in all likelihood out of luck.
Who will be fighting the named ranks in Kyushu? The list starts with Takayasu, who should be joined at M1 by M2e Kotonowaka (8-7). The slot Kotonowaka vacates is the only option for M2w Meisei (8-7). Then, it gets a little crowded, with M1w Midorifuji (7-8), M3w Ura (8-7), M6e Wakamotoharu (10-5), and M5w Sadanoumi (9-6) all deserving to be ranked at least M2, and Ichinojo also in the mix. In any case, these 5 in some order will fill out the ranks down to M4w. His late collapse will see M8w Hokutofuji (10-5) ranked just outside the joi, followed by the other double-digit performers, M10e Nishikifuji (10-5) and M12w Ryuden (11-4).
There are three cut-and-dried exchanges. M15w Tsurugisho (5-10), M14w Yutakayama (4-11) and M16e Mitoryu (5-10) all have irredeemable rank-record combinations. Their places in the top division will go to the top three promotion contenders in Juryo: Azumaryu, Kagayaki, and Atamifuji. We’ll see if Azumaryu can finally manage a winning record in his 9th basho in the top division. Atamifuji’s debut is one of the more eagerly awaited ones in recent memory.
Final-day losses left M15e Terutsuyoshi (6-9) and debutant M16w Hiradoumi (7-8) on the bubble. Hiradoumi has a slightly better numerical case to stay, but also went make-koshi at the lowest rung of the Makuuchi ladder. At least M16w should still be on the next banzuke. I don’t think both will go down, as there isn’t a good enough fifth promotion claim in Juryo. The question is whether either trades places with J3w Tohakuryu (8-7), and if so, which. Tohakuryu’s case isn’t all that strong, and given his negative style of sumo, I wouldn’t mind it if he missed out.
Dropping are lovable but ineffectual thruster J13w Tochimaru (2-13) and absent J5w Asanowaka (unless his withdrawal due to post-COVID effects rather than active infection receives unexpected leniency). Their spots should go to Ms1w Roga (4-2) and Ms4e Tsushimanada (5-2).
J12e Gonoyama (6-9) is on the bubble. He lost to Ms4w Tsukahara (4-3) on senshuraku, but it’s not clear whether this was a true “exchange bout.” With a marginally demotable score, Gonoyama could keep his spot anyway, or it could go to either Tsukahara or Ms5w Shonannoumi (5-2). Unlike other banzuke decisions, Juryo promotions will be released in a couple of days, so this mystery at least will be solved. For the rest, we’ll have to wait until October 31 (Halloween!). In the meantime, please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments.