Yokozuna Hakuho remains on target for title


Yokozuna Hakuho will enter the final day of the 15-day Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in control of his own fate after improving to 13-1 on Saturday.

Hakuho, whose sole loss came on the first day of action at Edion Arena Osaka, defeated ozeki Kotoshogiku for the 47th time to take a one-win lead into Sunday’s action.

Kotoshogiku (8-6), who entered the spring tourney with a shot at promotion to yokozuna, crashed and burned after an impressive first week and his lackluster results continued against the yokozuna.

Kotoshogiku got some forward momentum on his initial charge, but allowed the Mongolian yokozuna a death grip on the right side of his belt. Although the ozeki had a fleeting grasp of Hakuho’s belt, his forward momentum, and a perfectly executed uwatenage overarm belt throw spelled defeat.

A win over fellow yokozuna Harumafuji on Sunday will see Hakuho extend his record for grand tournament championships to 36. Hakuho holds a 31-20 edge in their career matchups.

Should he slip up, Hakuho will find himself in a playoff against either Kisenosato or Goeido, who will put their matching 12-2 records on the line in an all-ozeki clash. Kisenosato holds a 21-13 advantage in their 34 career bouts.

Kisenosato kept his cool after a pair of false starts by rival ozeki Terunofuji (8-6), who seized the first belt hold but was unable to hang on to it against his tricky rival. Kisenosato wriggled out of danger, grabbed his opponent’s belt and marched the injury-plagued Terunofuji out of the ring.

Goeido, who began the tournament needing eight wins to avoid demotion to sekiwake, took advantage of a weak charge by fellow Osaka native and No. 4 maegashira Ikioi (10-4). Neither wrestler was able to get a hold off the tachiai, but Goeido managed to wrap up his opponent’s torso and sling him down to the surface for his 10th win in 11 career encounters.

In their all-yokozuna battle, Kakuryu forced Mongolian compatriot Harumafuji over the straw to leave both men at 9-5. Harumafuji, who has struggled with a bad right knee in Osaka, tried gamely to tip his man over, but gained nothing from his efforts.

In other bouts, impressive 24-year-old No. 1 maegashira Kotoyuki improved to 11-3 by shoving out Myogiryu (10-4), a former sekiwake wrestling as a No. 6 maegashira. Meanwhile, sumo’s elder statesman, No. 3 maegashira Aminishiki won his bout against Georgian No. 10 Gagamaru (5-9). The win left the 37-year-old Aminishiki’s record at 7-7 with a chance to secure a winning record for the tournament on Sunday, when he will face No. 2 maegashira Okinoumi, who is also at 7-7.