Asashoryu maintains 2-win lead

Undefeated grand champion Asashoryu powered out Iwakiyama to retain his two-win lead at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

Asashoryu improved to 9-0 when he got both hands wrapped around Iwakiyama and grinded out the top-ranked maegashira in the day’s finale at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. Iwakiyama slipped to 5-4.

Asashoryu’s closest rivals are sekiwake Tochiazuma and komusubi Hakuho, who both improved to 7-2.

The Mongolian yokozuna, who won five of the six meets last year, is seeking his 10th career title and is the defending champion at the Tokyo meet.

Meanwhile, it was a day of bad fortune for ozeki Kaio and Chiyotaikai, who both continued their dismal performance at the 15-day meet.

In a bang-up-thriller, 19-year-old Mongolian Hakuho left Chiyotaikai shaking his head in disbelief when the newly promoted komusubi deflected the ozeki’s fierce charge and sent him flying into the front-row seats.

Chiyotaikai, who needs eight wins to keep his ozeki rank, fell to an unimpressive 5-4.

Kaio fell to his fifth defeat in a bout against Georgian wrestler Kokkai (3-6), who charged in like a bull before ramming the ozeki over the raised ring.

The ozeki had been up for promotion to sumo’s highest rank but is no longer a candidate as he was in need of at least 13 wins.

In other key bouts, Sekiwake Tochiazuma dodged a bullet when he swatted down Kyokutenho (6-3) to stay two off the pace after the pair came to a standstill at the center of the ring.

Tochiazuma moved three wins from regaining his ozeki status he lost for the second time after missing the Kyushu meet with an injured shoulder.

Sekiwake Wakanosato (4-5), who had needed 12 or more wins here for promotion to ozeki, was completely in the driver’s seat as he knocked out Miyabiyama, who fell to 6-3.

Fan favorite Takamisakari was never fooled by Hayateumi, who tried to sidestep after the faceoff but was quickly shoved out by the fifth-ranked maegashira, leaving both 4-5.

In a battle between Eastern European wrestlers, Bulgarian Kotooshu (5-4) emerged victorious over Russian Roho (4-5) when he twisted on the edge and threw his opponent with a thigh-grabbing technique.

In early bouts, Mongolian Asasekiryu dumped Toyonoshima (4-5) over the edge to pick up his fifth win, while compatriot Kyokushusan plopped on top of Kisenosato (3-6) after deploying a belt throw, boosting his record to 6-3.