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 12 undefeated wrestlers. The unusually low number is a consequence of (a) 10 absences and (b) no undefeated rikishi in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone because of defeats at the hands of Juryo opponents. The next round, unfolding over Days 7 and 8, will reduce the number to 6.
Heading the undefeated group is top Isegahama prospect Ms6e Takerufuji, whose record in his 6th career basho is 35-3, with Jonokuchi and Jonidan yusho to his name. Other notable names include long-time prospect Ms17e Otsuji and newcomer Ms27w Asahakuryu (23-1 after starting in March), as well as several rikishi on the comeback trail after injuries: Ms21e Asashiyu, Ms39e Oshoryu, and veteran Ms44w Kyokutaisei.
After only 3 rounds of bouts, all 9 active wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone are still mathematically in contention for a Juryo spot. Ms3w Hitoshi (3-1) is in the best shape of the bunch after today’s defeat of hapless J12e Shimanoumi (1-5). I’ll try to keep these reports coming every two days or so, as additional rounds of bouts are completed.