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Hakuho calls time on Baruto’s perfect record

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Yokozuna Hakuho drew a line in the sand Sunday, beating ozeki Baruto to deny the Estonian goliath a 15th win on the final day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Baruto was trying to become the first wrestler at sumo’s No. 2 rank to win a tournament with a perfect 15-0 mark since Hakuho achieved the feat at the 2007 summer basho, but Hakuho had other plans for sumo’s jolly giant in the grand finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

With his mother and wife in the audience looking on, Baruto came flying out at the charge and attempted to grab Hakuho’s arm, but the yokozuna escaped his grasp before heaving Baruto out for a first loss in front of another full house.

Hakuho, who had been bidding to win his third straight title, finished his campaign with a 12-3 mark.

“I feel great. I tried my best till the end. Next basho I will give it my all,” said Baruto, who will need to continue to perform at a high level to make a run at promotion to sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna.

Asked if he felt much pressure during the 15-day meet, Baruto said, “Not really. I just remained focused on my own sumo each day. If I can continue to perform well like I did at this meet I have confidence that I can reach my ultimate goal, yokozuna,” he said.

In other noteworthy bouts, Kisenosato unleashed a salvo of strikes against Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (10-5) before wrapping his left hand around his opponent’s mawashi and escorting him over the edge to finish his ozeki debut at 11-4.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who needed a majority of wins, escaped with his eighth victory in an intense battle with Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji (11-4), getting his left hand inside before muscling his rival over the straw bales.

Sekiwake Toyonoshima was twisted down to his knees by Kitataiki (2-13) to end on an unflattering 5-10 mark.

Kakuryu chased out Myogiryu after a series of quick shoves to pick up his 10th win, further building his case for a run at ozeki at the spring basho in March.

Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu received his first Outstanding Performance Prize after being the first to send Hakuho to a defeat on the 10th day.