The following assumes that Nishikigi will stay in Makuuchi, Meisei will be demoted, and Tobizaru and Chiyoshoma will stay in Juryo. Those 3 all have a strong claim to J1, so someone will be a bit unlucky to be ranked J2. I did not worry too much about correctly guessing the East/West side, or even being off by a rank here and there, like I do with my Makuuchi banzuke projections. Still, this should give a good idea of what the second division will look like next time out.
Makuuchi demotions in bold, Makushita promotions in italic. Several of the most interesting rikishi in Juryo should be up in the top division next time: Terunofuji, Wakatakakage, and Kotoshoho. If Tobizaru isn’t promoted this time, we can keep an eye on him, and with projected ranks of J5 and J6, Ichinojo and Hoshoryu are creeping up into promotion range.
Who will be ranked in the top 10 slots (Ms1-Ms5) in the third division, where a winning record can vault a rikishi to sekitori status? First in line is incumbent Ms2 Kotodaigo, who narrowly missed out on Juryo promotion despite a 4-3 record. Ms1 Sakigake should also hang around the promotion zone with his minimal 3-4 make-koshi.
Then we have the Juryo demotions: Yago and Asagyokusei. Absent Tomokaze will fall below Ms5. The remaining 6 slots should go to rikishi in upper Makushita with winning records. The likely list is Ms7 Oki (5-2), Ms8 “Prince” Naya (4-3), Ms9 Kaisho (4-3), Ms9 Chiyoarashi (4-3), Ms11 Jokoryu (5-2) and Ms13 Ryuko (5-2).
Bonus: Ones to Watch
Many of the “Ones to Watch” have hit the wall in upper Makushita (Ms8 Roga and Ms10 Oshoryu, the rikishi formerly known as Motobayashi, both 2-5) or further down the banzuke (Sd26 Hokutenhai, 3-4). Two interesting exceptions are Ms34 Kitanowaka (5-2) and Sd19 Yoshii (5-2). This was Kitanowaka’s 6th basho (not counting maezumo), and he’s gone 6-1 or 5-2 in each. He should be ranked around Ms20, so he’ll be in Makushita for a couple more tournaments at least, but he continues on a path that could see him become sekitori this year. And there’s an excellent chance that in the next tournament, Kitanowaka will meet none other than Ura, whose 7-0 yusho at Sandanme 30 should also see him ranked around Ms20!
Yoshii started at the same time as Kitanowaka, but he’s 3 years younger—only 16! He’s also never had a losing record, but his 4-3 last time left him somewhat behind. His record at Haru will see him promoted to lower Makushita, and he is an exciting prospect to keep an eye on.
Together with Asanoyama’s Ozeki promotion, the new sekitori have been announced. As expected, there are 3 promotions from Makushita to Juryo: Ms3e Asabenkei (6-1), Ms3w Fujiazuma (5-2), and Ms4e Chiyonoo (5-2). None are young rising stars—they are between 28 and 32 years old, all have been in the paid ranks before, and the last two have been in Makuuchi.
The corresponding demotions are not announced, but it’s easy to guess that going down to Makushita are J10 Yago (4-11), J12 Asagyokusei (5-10), and J13 Tomokaze (0-0-15). Missing out on promotion due to lack of available slots is Ms2w Kotodaigo (4-3).
With the results of the Haru basho in the books, we can start to forecast how the rankings will get reshuffled for the next tournament. As usual, I will write a full banzuke prediction post once I’ve digested the results, but we can look at the general outlines now.
Yokozuna and Ozeki
The senshuraku clash between Hakuho and Kakuryu was not only for the yusho, but also for banzuke position. With his victory, Hakuho will once again be ranked on the more prestigious East side for the 53rd time in his superlative career.
Word on the street is that Asanoyama will officially get the nod to ascend to sumo’s second-highest rank on Wednesday. He’ll join the incumbent (now kadoban) Takakeisho, and as a newcomer to the rank, will be placed on the West side. Oh, and the presence of two bona fide Ozeki on the banzuke means that Kakuryu won’t have to fill in as a Yokozuna/Ozeki again next time.
Sekiwake and Komusubi
West Sekiwake Shodai (8-7) successfully defended his rank, and should slide over to the East side to fill the opening created by Asanoyama’s impending promotion. Both incumbent Komusubi will fall out of the named ranks—Hokutofuji after a disastrous 4-11 tournament and Endo as a result of a surprisingly lackluster final-day loss that dropped his record to 7-8. This means that we need one new Sekiwake and two new Komusubi.
Two candidates are clear: M3w Mitakeumi (10-4), who I believe will be the West Sekiwake despite fading to a 1-3 finish. Mitakeumi returns to san’yaku after a two-basho absence that ended a streak of 17 consecutive tournaments in the named ranks. His 19th appearance in lower san’yaku will tie him with Goeido for 7th most this century. M1e Daieisho (8-7) will make his second appearance at Komusubi after a one-basho absence.
Who will be West Komusubi? This comes down to the breakout man of the tournament, M9e Takanosho (12-3), and an old steady hand, M2e Okinoumi (8-7). Takanosho has a slightly stronger case “by the numbers”, but I believe that the large disparity in rank, Okinoumi’s tougher schedule, and his track record of six past san’yaku appearances (he was last Sekiwake at Kyushu 2016) will see the veteran get the nod.
Which rank-and-filers will get to battle the named ranks in the next tournament? The term “joi-jin” (or just “joi”) is often used to describe the upper rankers and the maegashira who serve as their opponents. Typically, this group contains the top 16 men on the banzuke, although the line is blurred by withdrawals, avoidance of same-heya matchups, etc. In any case, with the san’yaku ranks set to grow to eight, rikishi ranked M1-M4 will be firmly in this group.
I’ll try to work out the most likely order later, but the top four maegashira should be Endo, Takanosho, Yutakayama, and Onosho. M3 should be filled by Takarafuji and Kagayaki (or possibly Kiribayama). There are four contenders for M4: Kiribayama (or Kagayaki), Abi, who could hang on to the current M4w with his minimal 7-8 make-koshi, Hokutofuji, and Aoiyama, who could rise all the way from M13 with his 11-4 final tally (not surprisingly, he and Takanosho will be making the biggest leaps up the rankings).
While the final-day results greatly clarified the picture toward the top of the banzuke, they left the exchange situation a bit muddy. Three demotions are certain: Tsurugisho, Daiamami, and Azumaryu. Tochiozan also appears set to drop to Juryo, with his final-day victory being too little, too late. And the Juryo results (and the disappearance of the M18 rank) will likely force down Meisei after he was unable to secure his kachi-koshi on the final day.
That’s 5 likely open slots in the top division, but there are 6 strong promotion cases in Juryo. J1e Kotoyuki (8-7) has the weakest case numerically, but the strongest historically: the top man in Juryo has failed to get promoted with an 8-7 record only twice in roughly the past 50 years. J2w Wakatakakage (10-5) and the Juryo champion J6e Kotoshoho (12-2) should be locks for promotion, the former returning after his promising debut was interrupted by injury and the latter making a much-anticipated debut of his own. It’s not completely clear whether J3e Terunofuji (10-5) is head of J5e Kotoeko (11-4), who has one more win from two ranks below, but both should have strong enough cases to force down Meisei.
That’s 5 up and 5 down. Who else could be at risk? Recent demotions of absent M3 Tomokaze and Kotoyuki to J1e strongly suggest that M1 Takayasu (0-5-10) is safe, as does the fact that the last time an M1 was demoted was 1798! M15w Chiyomaru (7-6-2) should also be safe, especially given that his three-day absence was involuntary. That leaves one Makuuchi man on the bubble: M14w Nishikigi (6-9). Nishikigi has a history of escaping demotion with records that could easily send him down, and he may do so yet again: J4e Tobizaru (10-5) is likely one win short of making his own top-division debut after final-day victories by Nishikigi, Kotoyuki (by default!), Kotoshoho, and Kotoeko. That’s a lot of results to go against you.
As I noted yesterday, the Juryo demotions seem to be set at three—Yago, Asagyokusei and Tomokaze—while there are four promotable rikishi at the top of Makushita: Ms2w Kotodaigo (4-3), Ms3e Asabenkei (6-1), Ms3w Fujiazuma (5-2), and Ms4e Chiyonoo, who moved to 5-2 today after his defeat of J10 Takagenji. Asabenkei and Fujiazuma should join the sekitori ranks for sure, while Chiyonoo’s one extra win might also jump him over higher-ranked Kotodaigo. I don’t think the banzuke committee will over-demote Mitoryu or Chiyonoumi to free up a 4th slot for one of them. In any case, while we’ll have to wait for the rest of the banzuke to be released on April 27 (Japan time), we’ll find out about the Juryo promotions on Wednesday.
After all the turbulence, it comes down to a simple winner-take-all final bout between the two men atop the banzuke: East Yokozuna Hakuho vs. West Yokozuna Kakuryu. The last such showdown took place at Kyushu 2013, when Hakuho met Harumafuji with both men holding 13-1 records (Harumafuji prevailed in that one). The two have met 51 times in regulation (head-to-head: 43-8), 15 of them as Yokozuna (head-to-head: 11-4).
The Ozeki picture
The schedulers have pitted the one reigning Ozeki against an aspiring one. Takakeisho (7-7) takes on Asanoyama (10-4) with a lot at stake. A Takakeisho win would mean he doesn’t have to secure 8 wins in the next basho with his rank on the line, and almost certainly means Asanoyama would have to wait for his promotion. Based on the talk coming from the shimpan department, a win by the Sekiwake could well get him the nod, even if he’d have “only” 32 wins over 3 basho rather than the oft-mentioned guideline of 33. The head-to-head record is even at 3-3.
The san’yaku ranks
Asanoyama (10-4) will either be Ozeki or East Sekiwake. Should he be promoted, Shodai (8-6) will slide over to the East side; otherwise, he’ll stay West Sekiwake. Endo (7-7) needs to win on the final day against Takarafuji (head-to-head: 7-8) to retain his Komusubi rank and possibly move over to the East side or even up to West Sekiwake. Hokutofuji (4-10) will, of course, be demoted into the rank-and-file (though likely stay in the joi). So, going into the final day, we could still have as many as three open slots and as few as one.
There are two clear favorites for the open slots: M1e Daieisho (8-6) and M3w Mitakeumi (10-4). Unless Daieisho wins and Mitakeumi loses on the final day, Mitakeumi will have the stronger numerical case, but Daieisho should have first dibs but virtue of his position at the head of the maegashira ranks. Should only one regular slot be open, the banzuke committee will have a dilemma, especially if the choice is between an 8-7 Daieisho and an 11-4 Mitakeumi. Could we see an extra Komusubi slot created for the second time in six months, after it hadn’t happened in 13 years?
Should the maximum three slots open up, the four contenders are Takanosho, Okinoumi, Yutakayama, and Onosho, and it’ll come down to how they fare on the final day. And while Takanosho faces Shodai, whom he’s yet to defeat in 2 tries, and Onosho battles Mitakeumi, the other two are involved in…
Bruce’s favorite! Eight rikishi have left their fate until the final day as far a finishing with winning vs. losing records is concerned. And of course, aside from the aforementioned Takakeisho and Endo, they’ve been paired up. We have Meisei vs. Kagayaki, Yutakayama vs. Chiyomaru, and Okinoumi vs. Kotoshogiku.
We could have a bit of a logjam here. On the Makuuchi side, we have:
Guaranteed or all-but guaranteed demotion: Tsurugisho, Daiamami, Azumaryu, Tochiozan.
Needs a win for safety: Nishikigi.
Probably safe but a win wouldn’t hurt: Meisei.
While on the Juryo side, the picture is as follows: Terunofuji has clinched one of the top 4 promotion records and will be back in the top division. Kotoyuki (7-7), should receive high promotion priority with a win by virtue of his J1e record, but is out with a loss. And then, there are four more rikishi in contention: Wakatakakage, Kotoshoho, Kotoeko, and Tobizaru. I’ve listed them by their current order of priority in the promotion queue, but this could be scrambled by losses among them, though Tobizaru is almost certainly out with a loss. So, victories by this quartet, Kotoyuki, Meisei, and Nishikigi would mean someone has to be on the receiving end of bad banzuke luck.
There’s also an imbalance in the numbers here. The Juryo demotions seem to be set at 3, with Yago joining Asagyokusei and Tomokaze in falling out of the salaried ranks. But there are 4 promotable rikishi at the top of Makushita: Ms2w Kotodaigo (4-3), Ms3e Asabenkei (6-1), Ms3w Fujiazuma (5-2), and Ms4e Chiyonoo (4-2). Asabenkei and Fujiazuma should join the sekitori ranks for sure. Chiyonoo fights Takagenji up in Juryo tomorrow; lose, and he misses out on promotion, but it’s not clear to me whether he jumps over Kotodaigo with a win (I don’t think this can be considered an “exchange bout” as I don’t think they’d force down J10 Takagenji even if he dropped to 6-9). Were they to decide to over-demote someone from Juryo instead, the men at some risk with a final-day loss are Mitoryu, Kizakiumi, Midorifuji, and Chiyonoumi.