OSAKA – Tochiazuma got his yokozuna promotion bid back on track with a gritty win over Kotomitsuki while Asashoryu remained tied for the lead with countryman Hakuho at 8-0 at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
Looking to rebound from Saturday’s shock defeat to Miyabiyama, Tochiazuma was given a stern test by Kotomitsuki at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium but after a lengthy stalemate, the ozeki got both hands on his opponent’s belt and yanked him down for the win.
Tochiazuma is two wins behind the front-running Mongolian duo while Kotomitsuki is also 6-2.
Defeat would have killed Tochiazuma’s third attempt to reach sumo’s top rank of yokozuna as he must post 13 wins here to be considered for promotion.
The Tamanoi stable wrestler is aiming to become the first Japanese grand champion since Takanohana retired in 2003.
In the day’s finale, Asashoryu shrugged off a strong charge from Georgian wrestler Kokkai (2-6) and bumped the No. 1 maegashira off the dohyo to stay on course for his first title of the year.
Asashoryu won all six tournaments last year but saw a record seven-tournament winning streak end as Tochiazuma won the New Year honors.
Elsewhere, ozeki hopeful Hakuho outclassed Chiyotaikai (5-3) in every department, yanking the ozeki down after an exchange of blows to the head for an eighth win.
“That was good,” said Hakuho. “I’m relaxed and feel I’m doing well at the charge. I’m not thinking about the championship, though, I’m just focusing on each bout as it comes.”
Bulgarian Kotooshu made light of a sore knee and showed fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai how it should be done by flipping over Iwakiyama (1-7) with a classy overarm throw to sit two wins off the pace.
Ozeki Kaio posted another vital win in his bid to beat the drop to by chasing out top-ranked maegashira Tamanoshima (2-6) and improved his score to 4-4.
Kaio will likely step down from the raised ring for good if he fails to record the eight victories he needs to preserve his ozeki status.
Earlier, Roho, who has struggled on his debut at sumo’s fourth highest rank of komusubi, scored a welcome second win by easily forcing out winless maegashira Hokutoriki.
Former ozeki Miyabiyama, the heaviest wrestler in the makuuchi division, proved too big a mountain for wiry maegashira Ama to move and prevailed to leave both wrestlers at 4-4.