Mongolian yokozuna Kakuryu defeated ozeki Terunofuji in a dramatic championship playoff on Sunday to capture his second title on the final day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.
Terunofuji forced a playoff when he outmuscled overnight leader Kakuryu in the final bout of regulation to leave both men with 12-3 records at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
But Kakuryu had the last word in the playoff, taking down the injury-hit Mongolian ozeki with an uwatedashinage pulling overarm throw to secure the tournament hardware.
“I’m relieved. I haven’t been able to win a championship since I became a yokozuna and it was tough and played on my mind but I am glad I kept on trying,” said Kakuryu.
“I thought for a moment (before the playoff), ‘Oh no, is it not going to be again?’ But I was able to wrestle my way in the end.”
Kakuryu’s Emperor’s Cup win is his first since he was promoted to yokozuna last year, although his path to the title was eased by the absence of the other two yokozuna, Hakuho and Harumafuji.
Harumafuji pulled out shortly before the start of the tournament due to a troubled right elbow, while pre-tournament favorite Hakuho, with a record 35 titles the most successful wrestler in sumo history, withdrew on the third day of the tournament with an injured left knee.
Terunofuji battled through the pain barrier and put up a brave fight, however. The summer champion came into the final day one win behind Kakuryu on the back of three straight losses and nursing a knee injury that is expected to take a month to fully heal.
In other bouts at the top, ozeki Kotoshogiku scored his 11th win by barging out sekiwake Tochiozan, who was unable to improve on his 10-5 showing in Nagoya in July and finished at 8-7.
Kisenosato also closed at 11-4, coming out on top of an all-ozeki bout against Goeido, who finished with a 7-8 losing mark and as a result will be wrestling to save his rank at the Kyushu basho in November.
Top-ranked maegashira Yoshikaze capped a memorable tournament with an 11th win, shaking off a face grab from Kyokushuho (8-7) to ram the 10th-ranked Mongolian out of the dohyo.
Yoshikaze defeated two yokozuna and two ozeki here and was awarded the both the Outstanding Performance Prize and the Technique Prize, two of the three prizes the Japan Sumo Association gives to makuuchi wrestlers on the final day of a grand tournament.
Yoshikaze is the first to win two prizes in one meet since Terunofuji won the Outstanding Prize and the Fighting Spirit Prize at the spring tourney in March.
“I am pleased (to the win the prizes) but more pleased with the way I have wrestled over the last 15 days,” said Yoshikaze, who won the prizes for the first time.
“(Beating all the big guns) still hasn’t sunk in yet but I gave it my utmost, wrestled well and that led to wins. If you wrestle with the right spirit it gives you confidence when you face off against strong opponents, even if you are small.”
Georgian wrestler Tochinshin, back at sumo’s fourth-highest rank of komusubi for the first time in three years, and 12th-ranked maegashira Ikioi both won the Fighting Spirit Prize after final-day wins.
Tochinoshin (10-5) lifted Toyonoshima (10-5) off his feet before shunting him over the edge, while Ikioi (11-4) closed out the tournament with a clinical force-out victory over seventh-ranked Russian Amuru (8-7).
“I knew from reading the news this morning that I would need to win today (to earn the prize),” Tochinoshin said. “This is a result of effort I have put in over the 15 days. I am pleased to win the Fighting Sprit Prize.”
Veteran maegashira Aminshiki managed to battle his way past sekiwake Myogiryu (8-7) to finish with a majority of wins.
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