Mongolian rank-and-filer Ichinojo capitalized on a slip-up by Hakuho to grab a share of the lead at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday with a stunning victory over yokozuna Kakuryu.
The 10th-ranked maegashira stayed on course to become the first wrestler in a century to win the championship in his makuuchi division debut, using a “henka” maneuver to sidestep Kakuryu (10-3) and slap him to the dirt in the day’s finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The victory leaves the 21-year-old Ichinojo, the first makuuchi debutant to beat a yokozuna since 1973, tied at 12-1 with rand champion Hakuho, who surrendered sole possession of the lead with a first defeat at the hands of newly promoted ozeki Goeido.
Ichinojo, who has also beaten two ozeki here, faces Hakuho in an intriguing showdown on the penultimate day of the 15-day basho on Saturday.
“I’ll keep trying my best and will go all out for it (against Hakuho),” said Ichinojo, who is aiming to become the first wrestler to mark his top-flight debut with a title win since Ryogoku in May 1914.
Hakuho’s bid for a third consecutive title took a hit when he was sent backpedaling out of the ring by Goeido (7-6).
At ozeki, Kisenosato claimed a majority of wins and improved to 8-5, the ozeki countering to flatten maegashira Osunaarashi (5-8) with a backward force-down technique, but Kotoshogiku (8-5) was muscled out by Ikioi (9-4).
In other bouts, sekiwake Takekaze (6-7) yanked down fifth-ranked Toyohibiki (6-7) to stave off a losing record, but struggling komusubi debutant Jokoryu was sentenced to a ninth defeat when he was pulled down from behind by No. 4 maegashira Takarafuji (7-6).
Popular maegashira Endo, wrestling for pride after a poor showing at this tournament, gave his fans something to cheer about as he posted just his third win in forcing out Terunofuji (4-9).
Lower down the rankings, Kyokutenho secured a winning record in his first tournament since turning 40, the Mongolian grappler taking out ninth-ranked Tochinowaka (4-9) with an uwatenage overarm throw.