Makushita Sweet 16

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 in which the 120 or so rikishi are 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). A 7-0 record from Ms1-Ms15 is a near-guarantee of promotion to Juryo, which otherwise usually requires a winning record from Ms1-Ms5. Three rounds have been completed so far, and we are left with 16 undefeated wrestlers. The next round, unfolding over Days 7 and 8, will reduce the number to 8.

Unlike in many recent basho, Makushita this time around lacks star power in the form of top-division mainstays fighting their way back from injury or suspension (think Terunofuji, Abi, Ryuden, and Asanoyama). The hottest prospect, Ms10TD Onosato, dropped his first bout, so he won’t be joining Ochiai as only the second rikishi to make the leap straight from debut to Juryo. Notable names among the undefeated 3-0 group are Ms2w Ukranian Shishi, several recent prospects including Ms13e Takahashi and Ms23e Kototebakari (Kotoshoho’s younger brother), as well as Onami big brother Ms29w Wakatakamoto.

After only 3 rounds of bouts, all 10 wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone are still technically in contention for a Juryo spot, but it’s already a long shot for Ms2e Kotokuzan (0-3) and Ms3e Ryuo (1-3), who must win out just to have a chance. Everyone else is either 2-1 or 1-2 aside from Shishi and Ms5e Yuma (3-0); those two fight tomorrow. Recall that at least two promotion spots have been opened up by the retirements of Ichinojo and Tochinoshin; J14w Tsushimanada (1-5), who was extremely fortunate to survive last time, must start winning in a hurry to avoid opening up another. And speaking of struggling veterans, winless J9w Chiyonokuni has to be next on the intai watch.

I’ll try to keep these reports coming every two days or so, as additional rounds of bouts are completed.

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