OSAKA – Injured yokozuna Kakuryu bulled his way to victory on Sunday, the first day of the 15-day Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
Kakuryu, whose participation at Edion Arena Osaka was in doubt due to pain in his right fingers, barely needed to use that hand as he rocked komusubi Chiyotairyu back with his charge and drove him from the ring with a minimum of fuss.
The only doubts after the yokozuna’s bout were expressed by his opponent.
“Is it true (that he’s hurt)?” Chiyotairyu asked. “His grip on the front of my belt was strong.”
The lone yokozuna competing in Osaka after the withdrawal of his colleagues Hakuho and Kisenosato, Kakuryu will be hoping to emulate his start in January’s New Year tourney, when he won his first 10 bouts before being slowed by injury.
January’s champion, Tochinoshin, used his superior strength to seal a comprehensive win over Takarafuji. Fighting as a sekiwake for the first time since the July 2016 tourney, the Georgian got the better of the initial collision, forcing the No. 2 maegashira back at the start.
Both wrestlers were able to grab belt holds, but Takarafuji could not prevent being lifted off his feet and deposited on the wrong side of the straw bales.
Osaka native Ozeki Goeido lost traction with his left foot as he and No. 1 maegashira Tamawashi shoved away at each other and was easily pushed out of the ring to open his home grand tournament with a defeat.
Takayasu, coming off his best record as an ozeki in January, when he went 12-3, lost to popular top-ranked maegashira Endo. The ozeki tried to slap Endo back but was unable to keep his opponent in front of him. With a nice display of footwork and balance, Endo dodged a Takayasu shove, pivoted and pushed the ozeki over the straw bales and into the crowd.
“I moved well. That was the best thing today,” Endo said. “I want to win every day, but there is a lot of focus on the first day, so it feels particularly good.”
Mitakeumi, competing as a sekiwake for the fifth straight grand tournament, forced No. 2 maegashira Arawashi back with his charge and executed a nifty beltless arm throw to earn the victory.
Ichinojo’s bulk proved too much for former ozeki and current No. 3 maegashira Kotoshogiku to budge, as the Mongolian komusubi bided his time until he could seize a belt hold and force out his opponent.
No. 7 maegashira Abi, who went 10-5 in his makuuchi division debut in January, pushed over 35-year-old veteran No. 7 Yoshikaze at the straw to open with a win in their first career matchup.
In the second-tier juryo division, Takanoiwa, the wrestler who was suffered head injuries in an October assault by former yokozuna Harumafuji, returned to action for the first time since, and recorded a win.
Harumafuji retired in the wake of the scandal that erupted after news of the incident broke in November.