Yokozuna Kakuryu survived a tough battle to retain his share of the lead on Friday, the sixth day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
On a day when the back story threatened to overshadow the action, Kakuryu (6-0) and former ozeki Kotoshogiku provided the day’s highlight in the day’s final bout. His victory left Kakuryu tied with three other wrestlers at 6-0.
Kotoshogiku, now wrestling as a No. 2 maegashira, seized the initiative with a solid opening charge, but was unable to put away Kakuryu. It took some maneuvering, but the yokozuna finally managed to grab a belt hold and force Kotoshogiku (2-4) out. The win improved Kakuryu’s record in their long-running rivalry to 25-22.
The day’s thrilling finale was in contrast to the bleak news the day started with as Kisenosato became the second yokozuna in two days to withdraw with an injury. Yokozuna Hakuho had pulled out the day before.
Ozeki Goeido failed to keep pace with the leaders, suffering his second loss to longtime nemesis Yoshikaze (3-3), who won his third straight bout. It was the No. 2 maegashira’s 12th victory in their 23 career bouts.
After bouncing off each other in their initial collision, Goeido lowered his head for another charge, but his attack developed too slowly and from too far away. Yoshikaze read the situation perfectly and applied downward pressure on his opponent, who was easily slapped down.
“I’ve wrestled the ozeki so many times, that I could anticipate a lot,” Yoshikaze said. “I was not thinking about winning as much as fighting a good match, and letting my training take over.”
The ozeki rank suffered another ignominious defeat soon after, when Takayasu (4-2) lost his footing. Recoiling from a shove by komusubi Onosho (3-3), the ozeki’s foot slipped on the sandy surface. He was unable to regain his balance and stumbled onto all fours.
Earlier, sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-0) overpowered No. 1 maegashira Hokutofuji (1-5) in a straight-forward shoving match that was as quick as it was artless.
Georgian No. 3 maegashira Tochinoshin doggedly forced out Takakeisho (2-4), beating the up-and-coming 21-year-old for the first time in three career bouts to improve to 6-0 for the tournament.
In the first match on the day’s makuuchi division card, 16th-ranked maegashira Asanoyama (6-0) kept his wits about him as he pursued and finally shoved out tricky No. 15 Ishiura (3-3).