Kotoshogiku beat rival ozeki Kisenosato for the 32nd time on Sunday to maintain his share of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament lead with a perfect 8-0 record as the duo faced each other for the 58th time.
In the day’s final bout at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho also improved to 8-0, holding off 33-year-old newly promoted sekiwake Yoshikaze (4-4). Yoshikaze gave the yokozuna a run for his money with a good jump on the initial charge, but Hakuho fended off his opponent before forcing him over the straw.
In an energetic ozeki clash that matched the makuuchi division record for the longest-running duel between two wrestlers, Kisenosato (5-3) failed to capitalize on his early advantage and paid the price. Kotoshogiku shot past his rival on the tachiai, but quickly recovered, pivoted to his right and doggedly pressed Kisenosato to the edge before forcing him out.
Before the tournament, all eyes had been on Kisenosato to break the run of 10 years without a single Japanese wrestler winning a championship, but Kotoshogiku has quietly put himself in position to end the drought.
Yokozuna Harumafuji stayed within one win of the lead at 7-1, dispatching komusubi Ikioi (2-6) with a nifty “uwatenage” overarm throw straight off the tachiai. It was the yokozuna’s seventh win in seven career bouts with Ikioi.
Kakuryu, who has looked vulnerable for the entire tournament, dodged a bullet against No. 3 maegashira Ichinojo (1-7). The yokozuna was quickly forced back to the straw by his Mongolian compatriot, but Ichinojo simply lacked the finesse needed to finish off his opponent.