NAGOYA – Yokozuna Asashoryu suffered another upset defeat and dropped into a three-way tie for the lead as the title race unexpectedly became wide open at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday.
Rank-and-filer Kokkai (8-3) handed Asashoryu his second loss in the 15-day meet when he outshoved the Mongolian and then survived a comeback attempt by the grand champion, whose body fell to the sandy surface a fraction quicker at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.
It was Kokkai’s first-ever win against a grand champion and also against Asashoryu, who had won all six of his previous meetings with the 24-year-old from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
The referee called Asashoryu the winner of the day’s final bout but the ringside judges overruled it after a mid-ring conference, confirming that Kokkai stayed inside the dohyo when the yokozuna’s body touched the dirt just outside the ring.
The loss was only the third this year for Asashoryu, who is aiming for his fifth consecutive Emperor’s Cup. On Sunday, he was upended by Bulgarian komusubi Kotooshu.
Kotooshu and No. 2 maegashira Wakanosato joined Asashoryu by posting their ninth wins in convincing fashion.
Kotooshu took control of his match with Dejima with a belt grip moments after the face-off and moved behind to send him crashing onto the surface by holding the belt with one hand and the right thigh of the No. 2 maegashira with the other.
Wakanosato pushed his way to a win over komusubi Miyabiyama (6-5), who had no time to put up resistance against a series of powerful shoves unleashed by the former sekiwake and backpedaled out of the boundaries in a matter of seconds.
No. 11 maegashira and crowd favorite Takamisakari (8-3), the other wrestler who entered the day one win off the pace, fell down to No. 9 Aminishiki.
Takamisakari struggled in his attempt to grip the belt in the face of Aminishiki’s slaps and was sent hurling out of the ring backward to end his winning streak at six bouts.
In other main bouts, Kaio earned his eighth win and will keep his ozeki rank for at least the next two tournaments. Kaio made it look as the ozeki fended off halfhearted attacks to his neck from No. 5 maegashira Hokutoriki (5-6) for a force-out win.
Ozeki Tochiazuma (8-3) also secured a winning record with a pull-down victory over sekiwake Kotomitsuki (4-7), who came to the brink of losing his rank after starting the tournament as a candidate for ozeki promotion.
Veteran top-ranked maegashira Kyokushuzan, the first Mongolian to break into the elite makuuchi division, toppled fellow struggler Kakizoe to leave both men at 3-8.