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Yokozuna Hakuho survives close call

Kyodo

Kotoshogiku saw his bid for ozeki promotion take another dent on Wednesday after he was sent packing to a second defeat by rank-and-filer Tochiozan at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho, meanwhile, gave his fans a fright when he was almost sent to a first loss at the hands of Kakuryu but the yokozuna was too savvy, escaping his sekiwake opponent’s grasps to remain the sole leader at 11-0 with four days left at the 15-day meet.

Kotoshogiku and maegashira wrestler Kitataiki sit at 9-2.

But the big story of the day was Georgian Gagamaru, who absorbed a fierce assault by ozeki Baruto before sending the Estonian giant retreating from the ring to stay one behind lone yokozuna Hakuho with a 10-1 record.

Gagamaru, a No. 11 maegashira who was facing the ozeki for the first time, never retreated despite a barrage of slaps from Baruto (8-3) and kept his knees bent as he charged to shove the ozeki out from the rear at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

“I was very nervous. But I just moved forward and kept up the pressure. I’m happy to do this in my first match against the ozeki. I just want to keep up the same momentum,” said Gagamaru.

In the day’s finale, Hakuho let Kakuryu inside for a firm grip on his mawashi but turned the tables while teetering on the edge, dumping the sekiwake to a sixth defeat with a beltless arm throw.

Hakuho is seeking his 20th career title and first in two meets after Harumafuji won the Nagoya basho with an outstanding 14-1 mark to claim his second career Emperor’s Cup.

Kotoshogiku, who along with Kakuryu entered the meet bidding for promotion to ozeki, got his arms hemmed up in Tochiozan’s (7-4) armbar at the face-off before backpedaling out of the ring.

Harumafuji won his fourth in a row, controlling his bout from start to finish.