Ozeki Tochiazuma’s bid for promotion to grand champion got off to a rocky start Sunday with a loss to komusubi Wakanosato on the opening day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
After a violent clash at the face off, giant-killer Wakanosato methodically forced Tochiazuma to the edge where he got a grip on his opponent’s belt and calmly lifted the stunned ozeki out over the ridge at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Tochiazuma, who won November’s Kyushu tournament and is bidding for promotion to the sports’s highest rank, needs at least 13 wins in the 15-day tournament to secure promotion to yokozuna, and can afford few setbacks.
In other major bouts, yokozuna Asashoryu, the only grand champion in the New Year tourney, got both arms around Tochinonada and waltzed the komusubi grappler out for the win.
Ozeki Chiyotaikai brushed aside speculation that he isn’t in top form when he used his trademark arm thrusts to the neck to send top maegashira Toki backpedaling out over the straw ridge in a matter of seconds.
Ozeki Musoyama barely broke a sweat and picked up an easy win when he threw down second-ranked maegashira Iwakiyama shortly after the face off.
Ozeki Kaio forced Hokutoriki to the edge where the top maegashira lost his footing to give Kaio the opening day victory.
Further down the field, 10th-ranked maegashira Kokkai kicked off his career in sumo’s top flight with an impressive win over No. 11 maegashira Yotsukasa.
After a solid face off, the 22-year-old Kokkai used a series of arm thrusts to send Yotsukasa over the edge for his first win.
“It’s great to get the first win,” said Kokkai. “I was a bit nervous but I just tried to stick with the basics and my goal for the tournament is to get a winning record.”
Kokkai, who is from Georgia, is the first European to compete in sumo’s elite makuuchi division.
Elsewhere, fan favorite Takamisakari, a No. 3 maegashira, sidestepped Tamanoshima at the edge of the ring to send the sekiwake wrestler tumbling into the first row of seats.
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