Kotoshogiku took a step toward ending a 10-year stretch without a Japanese champion on Tuesday with a win over yokozuna Kakuryu at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
The ozeki’s victory added intrigue to Wednesday’s matchup against yokozuna Hakuho, who has beaten Kotoshogiku 46 times in 50 clashes. Hakuho also won on Tuesday as the pair remained the only two unbeaten wrestlers.
Facing Kakuryu (7-3) for the 39th time, Kotoshogiku earned his first 10-0 record by defeating the yokozuna for the first time since last year’s New Year basho. Kotoshogiku was quickest off the mark, wrapped up the yokozuna’s arms and drove him out in a straight-forward frontal forceout. The victory improved Kotoshogiku’s record in their career matches to 19-20.
Hakuho, who is aiming to extend his record for the most career tournament titles to 36, improved to 10-0 in the tourney and 7-0 in his career against Brazilian No. 3 maegashira Kaisei (3-7).
The yokozuna got a quick belt hold, while shaking Kaisei’s hands off his own belt. The maegashira fought hard to stay upright, but was eventually the victim of a textbook uwatenage overarm throw.
Yokozuna Harumafuji remained one win back of the leading pair at 9-1 after dispatching seikiwake Tochiozan (4-6).
In an energetic shoving-and-slapping battle, Kisenosato (6-4) won a battle of struggling ozeki, shoving Goeido down to his sixth loss. Goeido had a bright start, getting around his larger opponent and forcing him to the straw. But after Kisenosato escaped, Goeido tried three futile frontal assaults, trying to ram his rival from the ring. On the third try, Kisenosato saw it coming and stepped aside.
Sixth-ranked maegashira Okinoumi (8-2) was too quick at the tachiai for newly promoted sekiwake Yoshikaze (5-5). The 33-year-old was a tad slow off the mark, and Okinoumi didn’t let up until his opponent stumbled while trying to evade the maegashira’s clutches.
“Yoshikaze is really fast, so I knew I had to be quick,” Okinoumi said.
Top-ranked maegashira Aminishiki (3-6-1) suffered a setback in his intriguing tournament, losing by a razor-thin margin to Sokokurai 5-5. The oldest makuuchi wrestler at the age of 37, Aminishiki’s tourney has included a win over Kakuryu and a two-day absence due to influenza that will all but certainly consign him to a losing record.
“Aminishiki is really good, but somehow I managed to hang in there,” said Sokukurai.
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