Yokozuna Hakuho showed his championship pedigree and put upstart Ichinojo in his place to retake the sole lead on the penultimate day of action at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.
Ichinojo’s debut in the makuuchi division has been nothing short of sensational and the 21-year-old came into the final bout of the day tied with Hakuho at 12-1.
But Hakuho, who lost his first bout of the 15-day meet on Friday against Goeido, oozed class and after a brief lock-up, made his move to send his 10th-ranked opponent down with a textbook pulling overarm throw.
Hakuho faces rival yokozuna Kakuryu on the final day on Sunday, and victory will assure him a third consecutive Emperor’s Cup and move him within one title of the all-time career record of 32 held by legendary yokozuna Taiho.
Ichinojo is bidding to become the first wrestler in a century to win the championship in his first tournament in the top flight.
Kakuryu (11-3) bounced back from Friday’s defeat to Ichinojo and thrust out ozeki Kisenosato (8-6) in a tightly fought bout before Hakuho and Ichinojo took center stage.
In other bouts, Kotoshogiku (9-5) had his hands full against Aminishiki but dug in deep to see off the veteran No. 6 maegashira, who has had an impressive tournament thus far with 10 wins.
Goeido, however, will need to beat sekiwake Takekaze on the final day to avoid a losing mark in his first tournament as ozeki after being thrown off the ring by fourth-ranked Takarafuji (8-6).
Sekiwake Takekaze (7-7) spanked Ikioi (9-5), but Jokoryu was saddled with a 10th defeat on his komusubi debut after being smashed out of the ring by Egyptian maegashira Osunaarashi (6-8)
Top-ranked maegashira Endo was sent crashing to the dirt by eighth-ranked Arawashi (5-9) and looks set for a significant drop down the rankings for the next tournament in Kyushu after slumping to an 11th loss.