Maegashira (前頭) is the lowest of five ranks in the top makuuchi division.
All the makuuchi wrestlers who are not ranked in san'yaku are ranked as maegashira, numbered from one at the top downwards. In each rank there are two wrestlers, the higher ranked is designated as "east" and the lower as "west", so No. 1 east is treated as a higher rank than No. 1 west, and so on.
The number of wrestlers in makuuchi is fixed (at 42 since 2004) but the number in san'yaku is not. Thus the number of maegashira ranks can vary, but is typically between 15 and 17. (This gives a makuuchi division split of around 10 san'yaku and 32 maegashira).
Movement within the maegashira ranks can be minor or extreme, depending on a wrestler's score in the previous 15-bout tournament. For example, a maegashira-2 who has an 8–7 record might only be promoted one level to maegashira-1 for the next tournament. Conversely, a maegashira-14 that wins the division championship could be promoted as high as komusubi. Indeed, this happened in March 2000 when Takatoriki of the Futagoyama stable won the championship with a 13–2 record.
Maegashira ranked five or below are likely to only fight amongst themselves (unless their winning record in the middle of a tournament prompts their scheduling with higher-ranked wrestlers) while those ranked maegashira four or above are likely to have several matches against san'yaku wrestlers, including ōzeki and yokozuna. When a maegashira defeats a yokozuna, it is called a kinboshi and he is rewarded monetarily for the victory for the remainder of his career.
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