Makushita Elite 8 (well, 7)

After 8 days and 4 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. Four rounds have been completed so far, and we are left with 7 undefeated wrestlers. The next round, unfolding over Days 9 and 10, will aim to reduce the number to 4, with the first 6 rikishi paired up by rank and the lowest-ranked 4-0 man matched with the highest-ranked undefeated Sandanme rikishi.

Here’s the bracket:

  • Ms1e Tokihayate vs. Ms16w Oshoumi
  • Ms18e Kototebakari vs. Ms28w Kitadaichi
  • Ms37w Kayo vs. Ms 50e Asashiyu
  • Ms54w Tochiseiryu vs. Sd2e Kainoshima

Tokihayate has already done enough to bounce right back up after his unsuccessful Juryo debut in May. Other notable names here are injury-plagued Oshoumi and Asashiyu, as well as Kototebakari, who is Kotoshoho’s younger bro. All seven quarterfinalists hail from different heya, eliminating any potential scheduling complications.

After 4 rounds of bouts, all 8 active wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone are still technically in contention for a Juryo spot (demoted veterans Enho and Chiyonokuni are sitting this one out, and it’s anyone’s guess when and if they’ll be back). However, promotion is a long shot for the 1-3 duo of Ms2e Tochimusashi and Ms2w Kiryuko, who must win out just to have a chance. Ms4w Takahashi is 3-1, while everyone else (aside from aforementioned Tokihayate) is 2-2, including Nishonoseki prospect Ms3e Onosato and Miyagino prospect Ms3w Mukainakano. All will be looking to pile up wins in the final 3 rounds in order to stake a claim to a coveted salaried slot.

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

4 thoughts on “Makushita Elite 8 (well, 7)

  1. Onosato’s challenges must be a bit of a surprise but I think it speaks to the level of quality in the division. Mukainakano should make it, soon. I need to make some visualizations to illustrate their trajectories, and especially highlight just how exceptional Hakuoho’s rise was.

    • Yeah, he fell twice to nimble opponents getting behind him or out of his way. It’s hard to get through makushita unscathed. Even the likes of Terunofuji, Abi, Ryuden and Asanoyama on their way back up from injury/suspension didn’t always manage it. (Terunofuji went undefeated once in 3 Ms basho, Asanoyama was 0 for 2, Ryuden was 1 for 2, and only Abi was 2 for 2).

  2. I’m surprised that only one rikishi in the Ms1-Ms5 ranks are fighting for the yusho, but that speaks to the quality of the division and how much of a barrier The Line Between Heaven and Hell really can be.

    I am sadly expecting both Enho and Chiyonokuni to go intai because of injuries. Time will tell, but one is long in the tooth and the other has a similar injury to the one that made his heya mate retire.

    • The rikishi start out paired in rank order, so (assuming no absences, juryo visits, or same heya conflicts) round 1 would have M1e vs. Ms1w, Ms2e vs. Ms2w, etc. In subsequent rounds, rikishi are paired by record, again in rank order. So assuming the east side won round 1, round 2 would have M1e vs M2e, Ms3e vs Ms4e, etc. Assuming the higher-ranked rikishi won, round 3 would be Ms1e vs Ms3e, Ms5e vs Ms7e, etc. Round 4 would be Ms1e vs. Ms5e, etc. So it’s a guarantee that only one rikishi from Ms1-Ms8 is undefeated after 4 rounds, as well as one from Ms9-Ms16, etc. This is the “Swiss tournament” system; once you have a loss, you can’t re-enter the yusho race unless some complication means the last two 6-0’s can’t be paired up.


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