Ozeki Kisenosato kept his slim hopes for promotion alive, overpowering Aminishiki while undefeated yokozuna Hakuho continued to wreak havoc with a demolition of Toyohibiki on the seventh day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.
Hakuho, who is gunning for his 28th career title and first in two meets in the absence of injury-hit yokozuna Harumafuji, maintained his lead at 7-0 as the first week wrapped up.
Three wrestlers, including ozeki Kakuryu and up-and-comer Endo, are hot on his heels at 6-1.
“I wrestled well today. I am just fighting in my usual way and it isn’t really about being hyped for my matches,” said Hakuho, when asked if the sell-out crowd influenced his sumo.
“My tachiai is getting better day by day, but the main thing is I am able to deploy my throws because of the pressure I am giving opponents,” he said.
Kisenosato, who suffered a loss on the opening day and dropped to a second defeat on the fifth day, was all business as he walloped winless Aminishiki with a series of thrusts before using his right hand to give his opponent a final shove out in the day’s penultimate bout in front of a full house at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The surly ozeki, who has been given a rough directive of winning the tournament with at least 13 wins for any chance at promotion to yokozuna, was again his reticent self as he refused to answer any questions from reporters in the locker room.
Hakuho dumped the feckless Toyohibiki (2-5) almost as soon as the bout began with a left-handed overarm technique to remain in charge.
“This is not the only time I have been in this position (of wrestlers chasing me). It is just about me focusing on performing and doing my best in the ring,” Hakuho added.
Relegation-threatened Kotoshogiku (4-3) was sent sprawling forward to the dohyo surface by Ikioi (2-5) immediately after the tachiai after coming too low out of the crouch, leaving him four wins from the eight necessary to keep his ozeki rank.
Kakuryu bided time to get in position to grind out former ozeki Kotooshu (4-3), who needs 10 wins for a return to sumo’s second-highest rank.
Goeido tried a speedy thrusting attack against Toyonoshima (4-3), but his smaller opponent still found his way inside for a grip around the mawashi before dumping the sekiwake with an underarm throw to a third defeat.
Shohozan was called for a rematch against Kitataiki (2-5) after the first match was too close to judge. He quickly disposed of his opponent in a maelstrom of thrusts for his sixth win.
Endo, who has quickly become a favorite among sumo fans in just his third appearance in the elite makuuchi division, manhandled Tamawashi (4-3) for his sixth win.
The No. 10 maegashira, whose right eye was puffy and closed shut from his clash on Friday, wasted no time getting his right hand on the mawashi for a powerful frontal force out.
In the day’s opening bout, Osunaarashi, sumo’s first Egyptian-born wrestler, used his larger frame to tackle out Kagamio (2-5) to pick up his fifth win. Osunaarashi faces Endo for the first time in the top division on Sunday.