Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


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Like every tournament, Wacky Aki will have reshuffled the wrestlers’ ranks. The new banzuke for Kyushu won’t be announced until October 30, two weeks before the start of the basho on November 12. But if you want to get a good idea of where your favorite rikishi will end up being ranked, without having to wait a month, you’ve come to the right place. The banzuke forecast below should be accurate to within one or at most two ranks. There’s one real wildcard this time around, where the forecast might miss wildly, but we’ll get to that later in the post.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

As the only Yokozuna to start, finish, and win the tournament, Harumafuji takes over the top spot, switching places with Hakuho. The other three Yokozuna retain their rank order relative to each other. As the only Ozeki to finish Aki, as runner-up no less, Goeido takes over the O1e rank, switching places with Takayasu, who will be kadoban at Kyushu. And of course, we are down to two Ozeki: Terunofuji will drop to Sekiwake for Kyushu, with one chance to reclaim Ozeki status with double-digit wins. Whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to participate, much less get double-digit wins, is an open question; the same goes for Takayasu, who will need 8 wins to retain his rank.

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze both did just enough at Aki to retain their rank, each going 8-7. They will return as Sekiwake 1e and Sekiwake 1w, respectively. Terunofuji appears at the slightly unusual rank of S2e. Both Tamawashi (7-8) and Tochiozan (6-9) will vacate their Komusubi slots after failing to get their kachi-koshi. Among the higher-placed rank-and-filers, only Kotoshogiku and Onosho earned double-digit wins, and will take over the Komusubi slots.

Upper Maegashira

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

This group is a mix of upper-ranked rikishi who are dropping in rank, but not very far (Tamawashi, Tochiozan, and Hokutofuji) and those in the upper half of the maegashira ranks with the strongest performances at Aki. Depending on the health and participation of the San’yaku ranks in Kyushu, some or all of this group will make up the joi. A case can easily be made for switching the positions of Hokutofuji and Shohozan.

Mid-Maegashira

M6 Chiyoshoma Daishomaru
M7 Tochinoshin Shodai
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyomaru
M9 Endo Ikioi
M10 Daieisho Kaisei
M11 Aoiyama Asanoyama

Twice as many kachi-koshi as make-koshi records in this group. Daishomaru, Endo, and Asanoyama make big jumps up the banzuke after earning double-digit wins at Aki. Conversely, the injured Tochinoshin and Aoiyama take big tumbles. This group also contains the underperforming Shodai and Ikioi. A case can be made for dropping Shodai (and, less likely, Tochinoshin) below Takanoiwa and Chiyomaru, and for dropping Ikioi below Daieisho and Kaisei.

Lower Maegashira

M12 Kagayaki Takekaze
M13 Okinoumi Aminishiki
M14 Kotoyuki Ura
M15 Nishikigi Myogiryu
M16 Daiamami

This group contains one of the worst performers at Aki, Kagayaki, as well as two rikishi who narrowly held on to their places in Makuuchi: Okinoumi and Nishikigi. It also contains the four rikishi who should be promoted from Juryo: top-division returnees Aminishiki, Kotoyuki and Myogiryu, as well as the amusingly named newcomer Daiamami Genki—may he live up to his family given name in his Makuuchi debut. These four take the places of rikishi demoted to Juryo: Ishiura, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, and Sadanoumi.

Now, the wildcard: our favorite pink-sporting rikishi, Ura, who badly aggravated his already injured knee and had to drop out after two days and only one win. Based on a very limited history of similar cases, I placed him at M14w. I’d be surprised to see him ranked much higher, and he could be ranked as low as M16e, or even demoted from Makuuchi altogether, in favor of marginal promotion candidate Homarefuji. Of course, Ura’s participation in Kyushu is a huge question mark at best, but being ranked in the top division would limit the rate at which he drops down the banzuke if he sits out one or more tournaments.

For a Juryo forecast, I don’t think I can do any better than point you to predictions made on SumoForum by frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari and others.

YDC Soken – Facing No-Kozuna


Soken

On Friday the Yokozuna Deliberation Council held one of their periodic reviews of up and coming sekitori. These training sessions are called “Soken” and in the past have been fascinating looks at the state of the wrestlers, and the opinions of the council.

The headline coming from the Soken today is that all 4 Yokozuna appeared, but only Harumafuji did any sumo. This should give sumo fans globally some pause. Out of the 4 top men in sumo, only one was healthy enough to actually engage in any matches. For Kakuryu and Kisenosato, they were present but did not face off against any opponents, they simply performed training exercises. Hakuho arrived in the final minutes, and did not even join in training.

The Council chief, Masatoshi Kitamura, remarked that the situation was “Not satisfactory”, and expressed his disappointment that 3 of the Yokozuna did no sumo.

At this point fans are beginning to worry about the Aki tournament, and with good cause. With few headliners likely to appear and fewer still to make it to day 15, the upcoming Aki basho likely represents a turning point for the current crop of sumo’s best.

Some specifics

  • Hakuho – Knee problems, fans may recall that last year he missed Aki for surgery on his toe, but they also did work on his knee. That the knee is once again bothering him is troublesome
  • Kisenosato – Has not been healthy enough to train up for Aki. As always everyone is being very vague about his actual condition and holding out phony hope for some miraculous improvement over the course of a few hours that will allow him to compete.
  • Kakuryu – Still barely able to walk, has practiced no sumo, faced no opponents in test matches. He is benched for Aki, as it has been made clear he must be fully healthy and highly competitive in his next basho or he is done.
  • Harumafuji – He continues to have problems with his knees and elbows, but he is one tough rikishi. He will give it his best shot, and I expect him to at least start Aki.

More details via NHK

Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


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My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai

Nagoya Day 12 Highlights


Hokotofuji
Before Anyone Gets Fussy, Yes, This Is Ozeki Kaio

Hakuho Ties Kaio’s Record

There was a lot of great sumo action today from Nagoya, but the big news is that after a one day setback, the Hakuho win streak has resumed. He picked up his 1047th win today, tying the record held by great Ozeki Kaio, who was present to see this milestone.

Kaio-1047

There are already so many superlatives attached to Hakuho’s career, and with his recent surgery and recuperation effort, we may see him continue to be a dominant force in sumo for several more years to come. Below are a few of the sumo records that have Hakuho’s name beside them:

  • 38 Yusho
  • 13 Zensho Yusho
  • 7 Consecutive Yusho
  • 950 Makuuchi Wins
  • 86 Wins In A Single Year

That being said, there is another record Hakuho is likely to break some time next year, as long as he continues to be healthy: The most tournaments as a Yokozuna, which is currently held by 80’s era great Kitanoumi, and stands at 63.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoyuki – This was a monster of a match, which saw Chiyonokuni somehow escape Kotoyuki’s force out via a very Ura like maneuver. Sadly it seems that the marginally injured Kotoyuki may have suffered further damage in the match, and was both slow to get up and limping badly. Kotoyuki is clearly headed back to Juryo, so hopefully he will be able to recover.

Shohozan defeats Gagamaru – Also on the fast track back to Juryo is Gagamaru, who has had a miserable basho, and just can’t seem to really bring much energy to his sumo right now. Gagamaru is a beloved public figure in Japan, and I dearly hope that whatever injury is holding him back, he can overcome it by September.

Aoiyama defeats Takarafuji – Aoiyama is not fooling around this time, he is really pushing hard for any san’yaku slot that might show up. Believe it or not, he is still a yusho contender. Much respect to the man-mountain from Bulgaria who has really applied himself this basho.

Ishiura defeats Nishikigi – I am still hoping that Nishikigi can survive in Makuuchi, but Ishiura continues to improve over his lack luster week 1 performance. Ishiura survived multiple throw attempts and was able to force Nishikigi.

Takekaze defeats Daieisho – Takekaze picks up his kachi-koshi with a fairly straightforward hatakikomi. Daieisho is now make-koshi but will be back in Makuuchi for September.

Chiyotairyu defeats Onosho – Chiyotairyu also locks down his kachi-koshi in a really straightforward win over Onosho. Onosho this was one of Onosho least impressive bouts of Nagoya, so hopefully he is back in form tomorrow. I am sure he is within range of a special prize now, if he can pick up a 10th win.

Ichinojo defeats Ura – Wow, we finally get to see Ichinojo move with vigor and purpose. It was actually rather impressive. But it’s also clear that Ura is hurt, and seems to have been hurt more in this match. But Ichinojo really put in the effort to win this one. Great match that I hope they show in the NHK highlight reel.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochinoshin – A brutal match that saw Tochinoshin pounding Yoshikaze with relentless furor. Yoshikaze kept working past the blows and focused on getting inside and taking control of the big Georgain, which after a while he did. Second later Yoshikaze pushed out his opponent, and picked up a hard earned kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shodai – Kotoshogiku prevails and keeps hopes that he can cling to Komusubi alive. Shodai’s high tachiai is an open invitation to Kotoshogiku to take control and push Shodai around the dohyo.

Tochiozan defeats Takayasu – Tochiozan owned this match from start to finish. Takayasu looked vague and uncoordinated, and Tochiozan flopped him around the dohyo for a time, then pushed him out from behind. One of Takayasu’s worst bouts in recent memory.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Claiming his 1047th career win, Hakuho engaged in a brutal slug fest with Tamawashi. I am sure some of those face blows echoed in the arena, as it looked like The Boss was making up for whatever was lacking in his day 11 loss.

Harumafuji defeats Mitakeumi – Very straightforward Harumafuji win today, Mitakeumi did not repeat his magic of day 11, and the match ended by yorikiri.

San’yaku Torikumi Forecast


Since the schedulers only give us the Torikumi one day in advance, it’s fun to speculate about the days ahead. Below is a guess for the bouts for the remaining San’yaku rikishi for days 12-15. Others who know more about scheduling than I do should chime in.

  Day 12 Day 13 Day 14 Day 15
Hakuho Tamawashi Goeido Takayasu Harumafuji
Harumafuji Mitakeumi Takayasu Goeido Hakuho
Goeido Tochiozan Hakuho Harumafuji Takayasu
Takayasu Kagayaki Harumafuji Hakuho Goeido
Tamawashi Hakuho Hokutofuji Ura Kagayaki
Mitakeumi Harumafuji Tochinoshin Ikioi Chiyoshoma
Yoshikaze Tochinoshin Ikio Kagayaki Ura
Kotoshogiku Shodai Ura Tochinoshin Hokutofuji

The Yokozuna schedule should be very straightforward. The only question is the order in which they face the Ozeki, and given the cache of the HakuhoTakayasu bout, I’m guessing they’ll hold it till day 14, even though Goeido is ranked higher than Takayasu on the Banzuke.

This also sets the Ozeki schedule except for day 12. They will already have fought the rest of the San’yaku and the upper maegashira after day 11, and Kagayaki and Tochiozan are next in line. Given his stronger record, I have Takayasu facing the higher-ranked of the two.

The two sekiwake have their remaining Yokozuna bouts on day 12, and then face the upper maegashira they haven’t fought yet. The two komusubi are done with their San’yaku schedule, and will face maegashira from here on out.

Beyond the high-rank bouts with obvious yusho implications, I’m looking forward to Ura facing Kotoshogiku, Tamawashi, and Yoshikaze, as I’m sure is everyone else. Goeido is fighting to avoid kadoban status. All four sekiwake/komusubi slots are mathematically up for grabs (although Mitakeumi needs only one more win), with multiple candidates to move up to the San’yaku should slots open up, so the remaining Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji bouts also have a lot of meaning and should be fun to watch.

It’s looking like a great final act to Nagoya!

Nagoya Day 8 Preview


Battle Circle Day 8

Our First Look At The Leaderboard

With the middle weekend of the basho upon us, it’s time to start thinking about who will take home the Emperor’s Cup from Nagoya. Right now anyone who thinks it’s Hakuho is probalby right. Although it’s quite possible that Takayasu might challenge, first someone has to beat Hakuho. What about Aoiyama you might ask? Yes, it’s most impressive that he has gone to day 7 without a single defeat, but week 2 will likely see him fight higher up the banzuke, and he may not dominate those matches. Then there is the idea of Takayasu himself beating Hakuho. I anticipate that match comes late in week 2, possibly on day 14.

With much of the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps kyujo, there are few who can give Hakuho a vigorous match. Today’s bout against Ikioi is a great example. For The Boss it was formulaic, and he cracked a big smile at the end. He is, in fact, having a great deal of fun. If he should be able to achieve another perfect yusho, it would open serious consideration that he might be able to campaign again for Futabayama’s record for consecutive wins. It’s a record we know that in the past, Hakuho has said “I was born to break that record”. A tough mountain to climb, even for the Michael Jordan of sumo.

Nagoya Leader board

Leaders – Hakuho, Aoiyama
Chasers – Takayasu
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Mitakeumi, Ura, Tochiozan, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Arawashi, Takarafuji, Nishikigi

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyonokuni vs Gagamaru – Time to see if Chiyonokunin can continue his renewed focus on winning. Today he takes on Planet Gagamaru, who is having a terrible basho. In their three prior bouts, Gagamaru has won two of them, but that’s not really indicative. Gagamaru holds a huge mass advantage.

Nishikigi vs Daishomaru – Nishikigin dropped his second match of the basho on day 7, and I am looking for him to return to being dominant on day 8. He has a nice winning run going, and he is 3 wins away from kachi-koshi. Daishomaru is holding a steady course with nearly equal wins and losses. He also holds a 5-1 career advantage over Nishikigi.

Chiyotairyu vs Arawashi – Arawashi racked up 2 kinboshi in the New Years basho, and since then has been on a steady downward slide. But thus far he has a strong winning record. Chiyotairyu looked excellent on day 7 against Sadanoumi, and he will try hard to continue his winning run. 3 prior matches with Arawashi taking 2.

Ichinojo vs Ishiura – Another classic sumo big man / little man bout. This time the big man is about as big as they come, and the little man can bench press a small block V8. Ishiura took their only prior meeting, so lets see if he can continue to turn his record around.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – The Man Mountain goes up against one of the hard charging up and comers in the person of Onosho. This is their first meeting, and we can count on Aoiyama to try to pummel Onosho into defeat. His best hope is to get inside, grab a double handful of moob meat and start pushing.

Yoshikaze vs Kotoshogiku – Ojisan Kotoshogiku takes on the Berserker, who has looked muted since his loss to Hakuho via a Henkaho. Kotoshogiku is mostly out of gas, but he showed great fire against Harumafuji day 7. Kotoshogiku leads the series 20-5, so this may be loss #4 for Yoshikaze.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Could be the highlight match of the day, a first meeting, it pits future Ozeki Mitakeumi against Nagoya 2017 punching bag Takakeisho. Seriously, Takakeisho – it’s nothing personal. Everyone’s first ride at Maegashira 1 is a blood bath. It means you are going to be somebody one day, and the sumo world loves you.

Hokutofuji vs Goeido – Oh yeah! Another first time match up. This time we get to see which version of Goeido boots up, as I think Goeido 1.0 is going to taste clay and 2.0 is going to have a fun match. Hokutofuji is taking his share of lumps in the joi now, but he is giving almost as good as he gets. And he does not lose either his cool or his manners. Ladies and Gentlemen, the future of sumo is here.

Hakuho vs Ura – Yet another first time match! This one is going to be a crazy one, and I am just hoping that Ura does not get hurt. Sumo fans have been wondering what this meeting will look like, and now we all get to find out. Will Hokuho use the same approach he used against Takakeisho? I think he will engage Ura.

Kagayaki vs Harumafuji – Last of the wonderful first time meet ups for Sunday, I think that Kagayaki will probably be quickly and ultimately overwhelmed. But will Harumafuji give him a trip on the death-spin?

Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 1


Following mixed success in predicting the Natsu banzuke, I’m going to take a shot at Nagoya.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Terunofuji Goeido
O2 Takayasu  

The ranks here are determined by performance at Natsu, with the exception of Shin-Ozeki Takayasu, who will need to work his way up from O2e. Although we no longer have three sekiwake, Andy’s OCD will have to cope with three Ozeki instead.


Lower San’yaku

S Tamawashi Mitakeumi
K Yoshikaze Kotoshogiku

I would not be shocked to see Shodai at K1w in place of Kotoshogiku–will the NSK favor the popular up-and-comer or the grizzled vet?


The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4 ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition. When none of the rikishi in the San’yaku ranks are kyujo, there are currently 11 of them, so they need  to face 5 wrestlers outside the San’yaku to make up their 15 bouts. This takes us down to M3e. But as commenter Asashosakari noted, M3w has to face at least Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Kisenosato and Takayasu, who can’t face a wrester from the same heya. At Natsu, the numbers of San’yaku opponents for the M1-M4 ranks was 11, 11, 8, 9, 9, 5, 6, 2. So there was the expected drop-off at M3w (Aoiyama), but he and Tochiozan (M4e) still faced quite a few San’yaku opponents as a result of the combination of same-heya wrestlers and withdrawals of Kakuryu and Kisenosato. Shodai faced 3 San’yaku opponents (and defeated two of them!), and no one else ranked at M4w or lower faced more than 2.

Why “the meat grinder”? Well, as a group, these rikishi went a horrific 8-51 against their San’yaku opponents, a 0.136 winning percentage. The only one with more than one win was Endo, who sort of held his own at 4-7. Excluding his performance, the rest of this group went an abysmal 4-44 (0.083 winning percentage). Not surprisingly, the M1-M3 ranks will turn over completely, as they did after Haru, and most of this group will fall far down the banzuke, although Endo should hang on at M4.

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura
M4 Endo Kagayaki

Shodai will probably just miss out on a komusubi slot; one more victory would have sealed the deal. He and Ikioi and Endo are no strangers to this level of competition. Neither is Tochinoshin, who is dangerous if healthy. It’ll be interesting to see how Takakeisho and Hokutofuji acquit themselves at this level. I’m afraid Nagoya will be a “learning experience” for Ura, just like Natsu was for Daieisho. Kagayaki is just here to balance the columns and not needlessly trigger Andy’s OCD.

Part 2 will cover the lower maegashira ranks.