Takakeisho will have one shot at regaining his status at sumo’s second-highest rank, provided he is fit enough to compete, after the latest rankings released by the Japan Sumo Association saw the fan-favorite wrestler demoted to sekiwake on Monday.
The Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan kicks off on Sept. 8 and runs for 15 days.
Takakeisho, who turned 23 earlier this month, was demoted to sumo’s third-highest rank after skipping the previous 15-day meet in July due to a right knee injury. It was his second straight tournament as an ozeki wrestler in which he failed to post eight wins.
While he has a chance at returning to the ozeki rank in November if he claims 10 wins next month, his condition remains in question.
His Chiganoura stablemaster said earlier this month Takakeisho is in better condition as he continues his rehab from the injury he sustained in his ozeki debut in May. But on Aug. 21, he was not seen among the wrestlers taking a pre-tournament physical.
Elsewhere, Yokozuna Kakuryu sits in pole position atop the rankings in the prestigious east yokozuna slot as he aims for a second straight championship. Fellow Mongolian Hakuho leads the western ranks as he aims for his record-extending 43rd title.
After winning the July meet with a 14-1 record, Kakuryu will enter his 33rd grand tournament as yokozuna, moving to 10th on the all-time list.
Hakuho, who earned promotion to the rank in July 2007, is gunning for his first championship since March, when he won with a perfect 15-0 mark. The 34-year-old finished with a 12-3 record in July.
Following Takakeisho’s demotion, three wrestlers remain in the sport’s second-highest rank despite all of them pulling out during the previous tournament due to injury.
Takayasu and Goeido have been handed the top east and top west slots, respectively, while Tochinoshin takes the second east spot. Goeido and Tochinoshin will compete in September as demotion-threatened kadoban ozeki, who will need at least eight wins to secure their ozeki status for the November tournament.
Takayasu said he has not completely recovered from a left-elbow injury he sustained in July.
“I’ve been able to use my left arm to some extent (in daily life). I need to do my best to make it on time for the opening day,” he said.
Tsurugisho, a 28-year-old from Oitekaze stable, is the only debutant, while three wrestlers will make their return to the top makuuchi division.
Azumaryu will join the elite tier for the first time in 30 tournaments, while Ishiura and Yutakayama return following short stints in the juryo division.