Ozeki Kisenosato took another major step toward his first championship title with a win over Ikioi Thursday, keeping him in sole possession of the lead at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Looking to finally shed his tag as a nearly man after coming so close but failing to win the Emperor’s Cup on numerous occasions, Kisenosato (11-1) did not have it all his own way against the third-ranked maegashira at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Ikioi (7-5) put up a spirited effort but Kisenosato dug deep into his energy reserves and came up with the goods to improve to 14-0 against his opponent and remain one win clear with three days of the 15-day basho remaining.
Yokozuna Hakuho and fellow Mongolians Ichinojo and Takanoiwa stayed one win back at 10-2.
Hakuho wrapped up the day’s action with an easy hikiotoshi (hand pull-down) against No. 4 maegashira Tochiozan (3-9).
Takanoiwa posted a blood-and-thunder win over Nishikigi (4-8), smashing him in the face at the charge and then dodging the No. 11 maegashira’s swinging palm before forcing him over the bales.
Thirteenth-ranked Ichinojo, a former sekiwake, got a fright in his bout against eighth-ranked Hokutofuji (8-4) but charged back from the ridge to belly him out for an ultimately comfortable win.
But 10th-ranked Sokokurai (9-3) dropped out of the chasing pack, sixth-ranked Chiyoshoma (6-6) putting the Chinese-born bruiser to the dirt with a pulling overarm throw.
Towering Mongolian ozeki Terunofuji was condemned to a majority of losses after being slapped down to an eighth defeat by fifth-ranked maegashira Takekaze (8-4).
Goeido (8-4) then bit the dust in the following bout, the ozeki getting taken out by No. 4 maegashira Endo, who leveled his mark at 6-6.
Kisenosato emerged as the only ozeki to survive unscathed as Kotoshogiku, surprise winner of this tournament in 2016, was barged out to a losing 4-8 record by sekiwake Tamawashi (7-5) in the day’s second-to-last bout.
Kotoshogiku’s second straight losing mark means he will be demoted to sumo’s third rank of sekiwake for the Spring Basho in March.