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Kakuryu, Homasho stay in hunt for title

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo News

Two rank-and-filer wrestlers are making headlines at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, shrugging off the pressure of a gambling scandal rocking the ancient Japanese sport.

Mongolian Kakuryu and Japanese-born Homasho improved to 7-0 records on Saturday to stay right in step with yokozuna Hakuho and Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu as the 15-day meet approaches the end of the first week at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Of course Hakuho, who is on an amazing 39-bout winning streak dating back to the New Year meet in January, is the hot favorite to win his 15th career title but the pair are making a show of giving the yokozuna a run for his money.

Homasho, who was demoted to No. 13 maegashira after pulling out of the previous meet on the seventh day with a neck injury, kept up his fast-pace sumo, hitting Shimotori (3-4) with a barrage of slaps before using a powerful right hand to send his opponent flying into the ringside seats.

Kakuryu, who previously reached the third-highest rank of sekiwake but has suffered a slump over the last four meets, had to ward off a fierce challenge from Tosayutaka (2-5), who drove the No. 6 maegashira to the edge before the crafty Mongolian got his hands around for a firm belt grip to propel his opponent off the raised ring.

Kakuryu’s 7-0 start is a personal best.

In the day’s final, Hakuho ripped through countryman Kyokutenho (3-4), deploying a devastating overarm throw to dispatch the No. 3 maegashira just seconds into the match.

Kotooshu slammed ozeki hopeful Kisenosato over the edge using a powerful right arm in a lopsided affair to stay in a share of the lead. The ozeki is the only European wrestler to ever win an Emperor’s Cup.

Mongolian Harumafuji (3-4) had another near disaster against Kitataiki (2-5) when he had to resort to his best impression of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk after being backed onto the straw bales, but the fiery ozeki recovered to twist his opponent out at the last second.

Nothing, however, went right for Estonian ozeki Baruto, who was shunted over the edge to a third defeat with relative ease by Aminishiki, who improved to a 3-4 mark.

Veteran Kaio, who sitting at ringside was the unfortunate victim of Baruto’s fall when the giant was toppled off the ring, was tripped up by Tokitenku right out of the crouch. Both men sit at 5-2.

In a battle of struggling newly promoted komusubi, Mongolian Hakuba (2-5) emerged the winner over Georgian Tochinoshin (1-6) when he grabbed his opponent’s wayward arm for a pull down immediately at the faceoff.

Earlier, crowd favorite Takamisakari got a quick jump out of the crouch against Tamaasuka (3-4) before muscling his opponent over the edge to pick up a fourth win.