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.
There should be no shortage of promotion opportunities, as absent J6w Hakuoho, J8e Chiyomaru, and J14w Azumaryu are all set to be demoted, and debutant J11e Hitoshi (1-5) will be hard-pressed to find the wins he needs while fighting on one ankle.
After Day 6, we are left with 14 undefeated 3-0 wrestlers. The next round, unfolding over Days 7 and 8, will reduce the number to 7. Heading the undefeated group are two wrestlers with substantial Juryo experience: Ms1e Hakuyozan, who just dropped to the 3rd division after going 4-11 in September, and Ms7e Chiyonoumi. They are matched up tomorrow, and a victory by Hakuyozan would not only keep him in the yusho race but also clinch an immediate return to the sekitori ranks. Also among the undefeated wrestlers are the September yusho winner, Ms11e Kitaharima, who needs to defend his title to earn a record-tying 9th promotion to Juryo, as well as a number of other prospects and veterans. Not among them is Ms6e Wakatakakage (1-2); the former Sekiwake and Ozeki hope has looked rather shaky in his return following ACL surgery.
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 (Ms2e Kiho is finally getting surgery for his injured foot and may not be back for a while). Along with the above-mentioned Hakuyozan, top Isegahama prospect Ms1w Takerufuji (2-1) is in good shape for a sekitori debut; everyone else is ranked lower and has one or two wins, so it’s too early to tell who’ll make a promotion push, but most are on the Day 7 torikumi, and these bouts should start to clarify the picture.