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Baruto wins New Year basho

by and

Kyodo

Ozeki Baruto clinched his first career title Friday with a victory over rival Kotoshogiku, achieving the feat with two days to spare at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Baruto’s 13th consecutive win coupled by a third loss by deflated and vanquished yokozuna Hakuho, secured the title for the Estonian goliath at a meet that had all but lost steam in the title race a day earlier at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Baruto got both hands on the back of Kotoshogiku’s (7-6) mawashi after a short exchange of slaps before dumping his opponent to improve to an insurmountable 13-0.

He became the ninth foreign-born wrestler and second from Europe after Bulgarian Kotooshu to win a championship.

“I don’t have that much to say but I am excited,” said Baruto, who made his debut at sumo’s No. 2 rank at the 2010 summer meet. “The championship had been a dream of mine until now. I have made a strong effort at this meet and there was a lot of pressure in the title race. I tried not to focus on the title and just give my all.”

Hakuho, who had the wind knocked from his sails after a second defeat the previous day against ozeki Harumafuji, also looked out of sorts against Kotooshu in the day’s final bout.

Ozeki Kotooshu (10-3), who had not beaten the yokozuna since the 2009 summer basho, got his hand in for a tight grip on Hakuho before heaving him over the straw bales in dominant fashion.

“I wanted to make a strong charge but I hesitated a little at the tachiai. I wanted to cut him loose from the grip on my mawashi, but I couldn’t stop him. I have to reflect on this defeat,” said Hakuho, whose 22nd victory would have placed him in a tie for fifth on the all-time list with former yokozuna Takanohana.

In other noteworthy bouts, ozeki newcomer Kisenosato came back from the edge against Tochinowaka (7-6), getting his left hand in for an outside grip before ushering his opponent over in a frontal force out to improve to 10-3.

Harumafuji, who was jeered by the crowd a day earlier when he did a sneaky “henka” sidestep maneuver to beat Hakuho, muscled out Miyabiyama in a textbook frontal force out for his 10th win. Former ozeki Miyabiyama, who is back at sumo’s fourth rank of komusubi, fell to an unflattering 3-10 mark.

Baruto was also booed on Thursday when he sidestepped Kisenosato in their bout to pick up a quick win.

Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu pulled Aminishiki (7-6) to the dirt surface after an exchange of slaps to improve his slate to 9-4, moving closer to the double-digit record he will need to make a run at ozeki at the spring basho.

In the lower ranks, Tenkaiho picked up his eighth win in his first campaign in the elite division, heaving out Kyokutenho (7-6), while Czech-born Takanoyama slapped down Yoshikaze (7-6) to move two wins from also securing a winning record.

Makuuchi debutant Chiyonokuni (9-4) appeared to have hurt a shoulder when he was rammed out by Georgian Tochinoshin (8-5) in an early bout.