On the back of his overpowering championship run in January, Georgian wrestler Tochinoshin will compete in March at sumo’s third-highest rank of sekiwake, according to the rankings published Monday by the Japan Sumo Association.
When the 30-year-old takes to the ring at Edion Arena Osaka for the March 11-25 Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, it will be his second grand tournament as a sekiwake. The last time, in September 2016, Tochinoshin was demoted after going 6-9.
The March tourney will mark his first appearance as a sanyaku wrestler, meaning he will fight in one of the three ranks below yokozuna, since January 2017, when he pulled out after suffering a meniscus injury in his right knee.
The rankings for Osaka have Mongolian Kakuryu at the pinnacle as the top east yokozuna.
At the New Year meet, his first grand tournament since July, Kakuryu reeled off 10 straight wins, including one over Tochinoshin, before he was injured and finished at 11-4.
Neither of the other two yokozuna, Hakuho or Kisenosato, remained in action after the first week in January, having pulled out with injuries.
On the west side, Hakuho is recovering from multiple toe injuries. If he takes to the ring on opening day, the Mongolian star will celebrate his 33rd birthday while competing in a record 64th grand tournament as a yokozuna.
Kisenosato has not completed a tournament since he fought hurt to capture a dramatic championship last March in Osaka in his yokozuna debut.
Kisenosato’s ozeki stablemate, Takayasu, is slotted into the more prestigious east side of the rankings after recording a 12-3 mark at the New Year Basho, with rival ozeki Goeido on the west after scraping out an 8-7 winning record in January.
Mitakeumi, competing as a sekiwake for the fifth straight tourney, occupies the east side across from Tochinoshin. The komusubi rank is filled by mountainous Mongolian Ichinojo, who returns to the sanyaku for the first time since July 2015, and Chiyotairyu, who last wrestled as a komusubi in September 2014.
No debutants were named to join sumo’s top-tier makuuchi division, but Hidenoumi and a pair of former sekiwake grapplers, Myogiryu and Aoiyama, have rejoined the top flight after earning promotion from the second-tier juryo division.