OSAKA – Ozeki Kakuryu put himself in the driver’s seat for his first title and promotion to yokozuna on Saturday, when he defeated Hakuho to take the sole lead with a 13-1 record at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
The Mongolian ozeki entered the penultimate day of the 15-day event at Bodymaker Colosseum in a tie for the lead with yokozuna Hakuho, who hurt his right hand in suffering his first loss the day before.
Kakuryu — who also defeated yokozuna Harumafuji on Friday — will be considered for sumo’s top rank should he win his bout on Sunday, when he will face fellow giant-killing ozeki Kotoshogiku.
Kotoshogiku defeated Hakuho on Friday and followed that with a win over Harumafuji in Saturday’s final bout.
Kakuryu on Saturday fought the larger Hakuho to a standstill at the initial charge, keeping the yokozuna’s back to the straw before finally tipping him over with a frontal force-out.
Hakuhos record fell to 12-2, and he can only hope to force a playoff should Kakuryu lose his match on Sunday.
In January, Kakuryu stunned the yokozuna on the final day to pull even at 14-1 to invite a playoff. Although Hakuho won the championship, Kakuryu earned a spot on the yokozuna promotion track.
Harumafuji’s defeat to Kotoshogiku (8-6), also by yorikiri, saw him fall out of contention with an 11-3 record. He will fight Mongolian countryman Hakuho in Sunday’s finale — a match that will only figure in the championship should Kakuryu lose.
Egyptian No. 11 maegashira Osunaarashi once more failed to collect his eighth win, although he fought a good fight against 39-year-old Kyokutenho (9-5).
Osunaarashi, who won his first seven bouts in Osaka before suffering a thigh injury on the eighth day, looked stronger than he has in days, but still lacked the lower-body strength to shove out his veteran opponent when he had the opportunity.
The defeat left Osunaarashi with a record of seven wins and six losses, with one rest day due to his injury.
Popular up-and-coming wrestler Endo (6-8) will finish the tournament with a makekoshi losing record after being knocked back at the tachiai and then shoved off the raised ring by No. 7 maegashira Chiyotairyu (9-5).