Toyonoshima sentenced ozeki and longtime friend Kotoshogiku to his first loss of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday, blowing the title race open in the process.
Toyonoshima, a seventh-ranked maegashira, drew Kotoshogiku in after the charge and sent him flying with a tottari, or arm bar throw, to also keep his own chances of winning the championship alive.
Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho capitalized on Kotoshogiku’s slip-up to grab a share of the lead at 12-1.
Hakuho is aiming for a record-extending 36th career championship and first in three tournaments.
Toyonoshima and yokozuna Harumafuji are a win back at 11-2 with two days remaining at the 15-day Tokyo meet.
“I just gave it my best shot,” said Toyonoshima. “I put personal feelings (of friendship) aside before going onto the ring and I once I was on there I was solely focused on winning.
“The ozeki’s (Kotoshogiku’s) pressure has been strong at this tournament. I was thinking about going underneath him but I can’t really remember how I won.
“Now the gap has closed to one so I will do my best for the two days remaining.”
Kotoshogiku and Toyonoshima are both trying to become the first Japanese-born wrestler to win an Emperor’s Cup in a decade.
In the day’s penultimate bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho took an early hit from yokozuna Kakuryu, but regrouped to turn the table on his fellow Mongolian and march him out from behind.
Harumafuji beat Kisenosato (7-6) to stay in contention for a second straight tournament.
The yokozuna appeared to have touched the dirt with his hand first in their initial match, but ringside judges ordered a second bout and Harumafuji made no mistake.
In other bouts of note, Yoshikaze showed nifty footwork before outmuscling No. 2 maegashira Takarafuji to close in on a winning record on his debut at sumo’s third highest rank of sekiwake.
The 33-year-old Yoshikaze and Takarafuji both finished the day with 7-6 records.
Tochiozan (6-7) completed a winning day for sekiwake, quickly slapping down struggling ozeki Goeido at the charge to condemn him to a ninth defeat.
Goeido, who has never posted double-digit wins since being promoted to ozeki for the Autumn Basho in 2014, will be fighting with his rank on the line at the Spring Basho in front of home fans in Osaka in March.
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