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Sumo: Kisenosato, makuuchi wrestlers off to healthy start in autumn tourney

In this June 9, 2017 photo, Yokozuna Kisenosato poses for a commemorative photograph in front of the yokozuna monument at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Tokyo's Koto Ward, after carving his name into the stone. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Kisenosato has been handed a favorable draw on the opening day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament, but stats suggest Day 2 will not be as easy for the yokozuna who is returning to the raised ring after a long absence.

According to the bouts for the first two days of the Sept. 9-23 tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan released by the Japan Sumo Association on Friday, Kisenosato will face top-ranked maegashira Ikioi on Sunday.

Kisenosato, who has withdrawn in a yokozuna-record eight straight meets, has only lost to Ikioi once in their 16 meetings. But he is 1-2 against his second day opponent Takakeisho, who wrestles at sumo's fourth highest rank, komusubi.

Kisenosato will be joined by two other grand champions, Mongolians Kakuryu and Hakuho, both of whom are returning to action after having missed most of July's Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament. Kakuryu pulled out on the sixth day and Hakuho on the fourth day.

In Sunday's final bout Kakuryu will face Takakeisho. On Monday, Kakuryu will look to improve to 14-0 in his career against top-ranked maegashira Kaisei.

Hakuho's first-day opponent will be komusubi Tamawashi, who has yet to score a win against sumo's all-time wins leader in 12 bouts. On the second day, Hakuho will face Ikioi, who is 2-12 against the yokozuna.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi, who won his first career championship in Nagoya, is drawn against two rank-and-file wrestlers in the first two days. He will fight No. 3 maegashira Shodai on the first day and No. 2 maegashira Chiyotairyu on the second day.

At ozeki rank, all odds are in Goeido's favor as he squares off against Kaisei on Sunday, having won 13 of their 17 past meetings. Fellow ozeki Tochinoshin will face Chiyotairyu in their seventh head-to-head.

Ozeki Takayasu has an 0-1 record against his first opponent, second-ranked maegashira Yutakayama.

In his second meet since promotion to the second highest rank, Tochinoshin will be fighting as a demotion-threatened "kadoban" ozeki. The Georgian needs at least eight wins to maintain his status at the next grand tournament.

No wrestlers in the juryo and top makuuchi divisions have asked to sit out the opening day bouts.

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