Ozeki Asashoryu scalped his 10th victim Wednesday to remain in a two-way tie for the lead with Dejima at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
The pugnacious Mongolian, who with back-to-back Emperor’s Cup titles of 13 wins or more will get the nod for yokozuna, was uncharacteristically cool in the final bout as he cooked Iwakiyama at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Iwakiyama tried to grab the ozeki’s leg out of the charge but Asashoryu simply sidestepped and firmly ushered the No. 5 maegashira out to stay apace with third-ranked Dejima with four days remaining at the 15-day basho.
Dejima, meanwhile, railroaded a helpless Kyokutenho (7-4) before the Mongolian No. 2 maegashira could stage a counterattack.
The former ozeki, fighting with a flare reminiscent of his days at sumo’s second highest rank, is mounting a serious challenge to the Mongolian brawler’s hopes of successive titles and yokozuna promotion.
Wakanosato (9-2), who duly disposed of Tokitsuumi with an over-arm throw, is the closest contender for hardware bragging rights with three other grapplers trailing at 8-3.
Crowd-favorite Takamisakari paid for a late start out of the blocks and after a short-lived struggle, was wrenched over the edge by No. 14 maegashira Tochinohana (5-6). The ninth-ranked wrestler fell to 8-3.
South Korean Kasugao had a hell-raiser with eighth-ranked Tamanoshima (6-5) but got the “gumbai” decision to post a winning record in his debut in the top flight.
Both wrestlers tussled for leverage but the 13th-ranked maegashira inflicted an arm-lock throw that sent both men hurling headlong to the clay turf.
Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (7-4) and Takanowaka (7-4) both posted wins over Hokutoriki (4-7) and Takanonami (5-6), respectively.
A lackluster Musoyama, the only other ozeki at the meet, notched his fifth win in a lopsided bout against fifth-ranked Kaiho (5-6).
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