Kyushu 2021 Day Nine
Kakenage. Akua began the Makuuchi matches by beautifully throwing over Kagayaki with the hooking inner thigh throw. And then remarkably, Kiribayama won later in the day with the same kimarite over Wakatakakage.
Match of the Day
Sekiwake East Mitakeumi versus Sekiwake West Meisei
In the all-Sekiwake battle, the match first looked like it was going Meisei's way. At the very least, he was keeping a pushing battle that didn't allow Mitakeumi to get inside. Mitakeumi then did a good job of just working to get a grip. That allowed him to get his right arm fully under Meisei's armpit and more importantly his left hand to grab the mawashi. At that point, it was textbook.
Terunofuji, Takakeisho, Mitakeumi, and Abi all won, keeping the leaderboard the same. In fact, Tamawashi, Ura, and Hokutofuji all won as well, keeping their place in the two win group. Sadanoumi dropping his third match and pulling further back was the only shakeup at the top of the Yusho arasoi. The closing kick of the basho is still set up for a clash of the titans over the final weekend.
Which means this might be the right time to consider everyone whose fortunes have been bad this basho. After 9 days, there are some kachi-koshi and make-koshi settled already. More crucially, there are plenty of rikishi right on the line if not yet over it. Every rikishi would like to win the yusho, but every rikishi and especially Maegashira is focused on getting to 8 wins. A promotion is the first goal. A demotion is something to avoid.
Kotoeko is the only rikishi who has failed to avoid demotion so far. His 1-8 record may actually favor him, because he has looked terrible all basho. Fortunately for him, his current Maegashira 8 rank gives him a small cushion for demotion before facing a Juryo return. Wakatakakage and Myogiryu are at 2-7 with a large amount of space to fall, but they are likely to fall. This is a different case than Shohozan, who is at 2-7 at the lowest Maegashira rank. The only way that Shohozan is not back in Juryo in January is if he wins out over the final 6 days.
The other two rikishi in danger of facing Juryo demotions are Kaisei and Tochinoshin. Kaisei is 4-5, with a solid enough chance at landing 8-7 in the end. His problem is a 7-8 probably takes him down to the second division from Maegashira 17 East. Tochinoshin is higher up at Maegashira 13, but his 2-4-3 record comes from missing a few days to back problems and not looking healthy when fighting. He could sit out more or have further issues on-dohyo to finish with a dire record. It would be an inglorious way for the former Ozeki to leave Makuuchi.
Sumo has been in a transitional period for most of 2021. The final basho of the year has continued the transition, but in a different way. Hakuho is in an elder's windbreaker on the sidelines, while veteran rikishi are falling down the banzuke. Takakeisho and Mitakeumi could be advancing their sumo to a new, higher level. Yes, they've had moments before, but this may be that basho for them. It always could be THAT basho for any rikishi, either on the way up or the way down.