Kotoshogiku’s chance at a playoff against Hakuho was probably a long shot — at least the yokozuna made it appear that way when he captured his 20th career title with a 13th win against ozeki Harumafuji on the final day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
In front of a packed house at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Kotoshogiku, who has secured his promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki with an outstanding performance here, needed to beat Baruto in his last bout but the Estonian ozeki was determined to show the sekiwake who was boss this day.
Baruto (10-5) got a quick jump for a left-handed grip on the back of his opponent’s mawashi and tossed Kotoshogiku over the edge to a third defeat with an emphatic right-handed overarm throw when the sekiwake tried to charge forward.
Hakuho, meanwhile, got revenge against Harumafuji (8-7), who won the Nagoya meet in July with a 14-1 mark, dumping the ozeki with a powerful left-handed overarm throw for his third title in four meets this year.
“Last tournament, I missed out on winning eight straight titles in a row. I felt the hurdle to get my 20th career title was really high this time,” said Hakuho, who became only the sixth wrestler in history to achieve the feat.
“When I lost two in a row I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I was able to fight back in the final two days after remembering how I fought at the start,” he said.
Harumafuji had a shot at promotion to yokozuna but finished with just a majority of wins.
Fukuoka native Kotoshogiku will become the first Japanese wrestler to be promoted in four years following former ozeki Kotomitsuki, who assumed the rank after the 2007 Nagoya basho.
Former ozeki Kaio, who retired in July, was the last Japanese to hold sumo’s second-highest rank.
Kotoshogiku, who stood out for his trademark “gaburi-yori” technique, in which he wriggles his opponent to and fro while bumping him out with his torso, picked up his fourth Technique and third Outstanding Performance prizes.
“I’m a little disappointed (about the title) but I wanted a chance to redeem my dream after missing out in the last basho. I got tougher mentally and that paid off. I tried to keep my composure this meet and get solid jumps at the face-off. The efforts showed in my wins and I’m satisfied,” said Kotoshogiku.
On Wednesday morning, the Japan Sumo Association’s executive board will formally promote Kotoshogiku to the ozeki rank for the Kyushu basho in November.
“Beating the yokozuna (on the 13th day) was a big factor. It was close to a unanimous decision by the judgment committee to promote him,” said former yokozuna Takanohana, who heads the committee.
Rival sekiwake Kisenosato, who stopped Hakuho’s undefeated streak on the 12th day, will not be promoted this time around but can make a bid for ozeki at the Kyushu meet.