Makushita Final Four

As a reminder, here was the 4-0 quarterfinal bracket going into Day 9:

  • Ms1e Hakuyozan vs. Ms11e Kitaharima
  • Ms21e Narutaki vs. Ms25w Kotokenryu
  • Ms42w Satorufuji vs. Ms36w Chiyonoo
  • Ms57e Daikisho vs. Sd1e Asonoyama

Kitaharima pushed out top-ranked Hakuyozan with relative ease, Narutaki prevailed over Kotokenryu, Satorufuji had an impressive belt win over the veteran Chiyonoo, and Daikisho won the division crossover bout against Asonoyama. So we’re left with four men vying for the title. The semifinals will take place on Day 11 and should look like this:

  • Ms11e Kitaharima vs. Ms21e Narutaki
  • Ms42w Satorufuji vs. Ms57e Daikisho

37-year-old Kitaharima, who has over two decades of professional sumo experience, is having a late-career resurgence, with 12 consecutive wins going back to his Aki Makushita Sandanme yusho (apologies for the error in the prior posts). He is looking to secure the automatic promotion that comes with a 7-0 record from the Ms1-Ms15 ranks, which would tie the record for most career sekitori promotions with 9. The latest Isegahama prospect, 19-year-old Ms42w Satorufuji, has a career record of 28-5 in only his 5th basho, with 5-2, 7-0, 6-1, 5-2, and 5-0 records and a Jonidan yusho in May. I don’t have anything especially notable to say about the other two seminalists. Come back on Wednesday to see how this plays out.

The promotion picture is starting to clear up. Two spots are open in Juryo as a consequence of Hakuoho’s absence and Azumaryu’s withdrawal. Several other incumbents are in trouble. The Ms1 duo of Hakuyozan and his West-side counterpart, top Isegahama prospect Takerufuji (they really need to get more inventive with these shikona) are both 4-1 and should be locks to go up. Takerufuji debuted at Kyushu last year and has posted scores of 7-0 yusho, 7-0 yusho, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, 5-2 to date, so his sekitori debut is eagerly anticipated. Kitaharima could claim a third promotion spot by winning out, but is not in the running with anything less than the yusho.

The rest of the wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone have more of an uphill climb. They need to pile up wins and hope for losses by their fellow contenders and the endangered Juryo men. Ms3e Tochimusashi, who’s struggled after an impressive Juryo debut at Aki 2022 (with a yusho, no less!), is currently in the best shape at 3-2. The only action tomorrow is Ms4w Tsushimanada (3-2), who’s wrapped in so much tape that he looks like a mummy, visiting Juryo to take on J11w Hidenoumi (4-3-2), who is back after 3 days off following a calf injury and needs at least a win or two to stay in the salaried ranks. This battle of the wounded should be followed by a number of other cross-division bouts between promotion hopefuls and those trying to defend their sekitori status in the closing days.

7 thoughts on “Makushita Final Four

  1. In fairness to Isegahama, if you ignore the fuji suffix which of course (almost) everyone is going to get, he is probably one of the more interesting guys in the sport for new shikona especially when you consider that we just look at the romanicised version of the reading but he uses some fairly unique kanji at least among current oyakata

    It looks like it also may be not beyond the realms of possibility here that with a 5-2 finish that Wakatakakage could conceivably end up back in Juryo depending how a few of the folks in the traditional promotion zone shake out… apart from the top two who are already up, it’s certainly conceivable that the others who are still in play only get 0-1 wins out of 2 and end up makekoshi

    • That’s a fair point about me just looking at the romanicised shikona.

      It’s not impossible for someone from below Ms5 to sneak in without a zensho, but it hasn’t happened since 2018, and happens maybe a couple of times per decade. At a rough guess, we should have 5 openings, +/-1, two are spoken for, so it’ll depend on how Kitaharima and the rest of the Ms1-Ms5 guys do. I think he only goes up if someone must be demoted, even with maximum leniency, and there’s no higher-ranked KK record

        • Only up to a point. Normally, J11 with 6-9 record is safe, 5-10 will usually get you demoted but not if there isn’t a plausible promotion candidate, but with 4-11 they’ll find someone to replace you

      • Kitaharima’s got little to no shot at acquiring kabu even if he were eligible, right? If he had a shot, I could see this being a desperation fight to get those last few tournaments in juryo that he needs.

  2. It’s nice to see Wakatakakage get back over .500 at 3-2. And former prospect (to me, at least) Otani has won three straight after his disastrous last basho. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kototebakari has hit the high Maukshita wall and bounced off rather spectacularly, with a 1-4 effort from Ms5. Terutsuyoshi, too, seems ready for a deep drop. Guess his health is preventing him from a real attempt at a comeback to the salaried ranks, so I wonder why he’s sticking around if this is the form he’s gonna be in.

    • I’m thinking that it’s time for Terutsuyoshi to make a decision if he’s trying to fight through injury. Option 1: take 3 or 4 basho off to get fully healed, eat the drop, and realize it’ll be probably 6-8 basho to make it back if he even can. Option 2: retire. He’s been sekitori for over 30 tournaments, with over 20 in makuuchi. It’s definitely been a respectable sumo career.

      That said, I was surprised at how young he is. He’s only 28! If he retired and went to college, he’d be 32 at graduation, which is pretty normal for people taking a second career path.


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