Kotoshogiku gets by yokozuna Hakuho to claim sole lead


Kotoshogiku stole the show at the 15-day New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday, when he defeated Hakuho in a clash of unbeaten wrestlers.

Seeking to be the first Japanese wrestler to win a tournament in 10 years, Kotoshogiku improved to 11-0 by knocking off his second straight yokozuna opponent in gritty fashion. The ozeki was fastest off the mark, slammed into Hakuho’s left shoulder, wrapped up his opponent’s arms and seized control.

Hakuho tried to wiggle free, but Kotoshogiku used great balance and footwork and continually drove the Mongolian backward until a final push settled it to the delight of the crowd.

“He (Kotoshogiku) is better than he’s ever been,” Hakuho said. “I thought I had room to work with, but I was on the straw before I knew it.”

The loss, the yokozuna’s fifth to Kotoshogiku in 51 career bouts, left Hakuho tied with fellow Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji.

Harumafuji remained one win back of Kotoshogiku with a victory over struggling ozeki Goeido, who lost his fifth straight to fall to 4-7. The yokozuna, who entered with a 26-8 record against his opponent, repelled Goeido’s charge on the tachiai. A series of powerful shoves with both arms from Harumafuji sent the ozeki bounding back out of the ring.

The yokozuna will face Kotoshogiku on Thursday, with the ozeki holding a 30-23 winning record over their careers.

“He (Kotoshogiku) is absolutely the most locked-in,” Harumafuji said. “It (our bout) will be the most highly anticipated one.”

Yokozuna Kakuryu posted a solid eighth win after 10 days of looking very shaky. The Mongolian wrapped up the arms of much-taller No. 3 maegashira Kaisei, and the 194-cm Brazilian managed only minor resistance.

Ozeki Kisenosato fell to 6-5 when his left knee appeared to buckle as he grappled with newly promoted 33-year-old sekiwake Yoshikaze (6-5). With each man swaying, trying to tip his opponent over, Kisenosato suddenly collapsed and could do nothing but shake his head as he exited the ring.

No. 8 maegashira Takayasu and No. 7 maegashira Toyonoshima both improved to 9-2 to stay within a shout of the lead as the tournament enters its final four days.

Top-ranked maegashira Aminishiki, the makuuchi division’s elder statesman, knocked Shohozan (3-8) off balance before pulling him forward and slapping him down. Aminishiki (4-6-1) has missed two bouts due to influenza but also claimed the scalp of yokozuna Kakuryu.

The Japan Sumo Association announced that all tickets for Wednesday’s program were sold, while all the advanced tickets for Thursday have been sold.