NAGOYA - Ozeki Kisenosato kick-started his bid for promotion to yokozuna with a comfortable win over Mitakeumi on Sunday, the opening day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
Kisenosato was all business against the top-ranked maegashira — a former amateur yokozuna who posted an impressive 11-4 mark at the Summer Basho in May — setting himself up with a right-handed belt grip and calmly bumping the 23-year-old over the straw ridge.
Kisenosato is attempting to become the first Japanese-born wrestler since Wakanohana in 1998 to win promotion to sumo’s ultimate rank.
To have a realistic shot at promotion, Kisenosato will have to win his first title at the 15-day meet at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium or at worst, finish runner-up.
Tournament favorite Hakuho presents the biggest obstacle on Kisenosato’s path to glory.
Chasing a record-extending 38th career title, the Mongolian yokozuna wrapped up the day’s action by barging out komusubi Takayasu.
Hakuho is on a 30-match unbeaten streak and needs only 12 more wins to become only the third wrestler in sumo history to reach the 1,000 milestone. Six victories will see the 31-year-old from Ulan Bator become the first to win 900 in sumo’s elite makuuchi division.
In other matches, Harumafuji got a scare before swinging Georgian Tochinoshin around and flooring him with a pulling overarm throw. Fellow Mongolian yokozuna Kakuryu then prevailed by shoving out komusubi Kotoyuki.
Mongolian giant Terunofuji, who has been hampered by injuries to both knees, scored the first of eight victories he needs to save his rank, the ozeki muscling out second-ranked maegashira Okinoumi. Terunofuji started with two wins in May before losing 13 straight.
Goeido became the first ozeki casualty of the day when he was sent to the dirt by second-ranked maegashira Takarafuji. Kotoshogiku lost his way and was marched out by top-ranked Tochiozan.
Brazilian grappler Kaisei won by default in his sekiwake debut after his scheduled opponent, third-ranked Egyptian Osunaarashi, withdrew from the tournament with a knee injury.
Thirteenth-raked veteran Aminishiki and 11th-ranked Toyonoshima also have pulled out with Achilles tears.
No. 15 maegashira Kitaharima marked his debut in the makuuchi division with a win, deploying a twisting backward knee trip to take out 14th-ranked Nishikigi.