OSAKA - Yokozuna Kakuryu inched toward his fourth career championship on Friday, the 13th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
Kakuryu (12-1) defeated No. 6 maegashira Kaisei, his closest rival in the 15-day competition, opening up a two-win lead over the field with two days of bouts remaining at Edion Arena Osaka.
A day after suffering his only loss, Kakuryu said he pushed the reset button.
“I was able to put everything behind me,” he said. “My thinking was to approach this fresh, like the first day of the tournament.”
The yokozuna came in quick and low, aiming for the front of Kaisei’s belt. But as the Brazilian slammed into his left shoulder, the yokozuna pivoted slightly. The 205-kg Kaisei then crashed forward to his third defeat here and his 12th in 12 bouts against Kakuryu.
“Wrestling in the day’s final bout and being in the hunt for a championship, I was really looking forward to this,” Kaisei said. “But I got too pumped up, my foot slipped and that was that.”
The tournament’s ozeki showdown saw Takayasu (10-3) take on the charge of Osaka-native Goeido (9-4), force him on to his heels and then yank his head down in a textbook hatakikomi (shove). The win improved Takayasu’s record against his rival to 18-9.
Goeido will face Kakuryu on Saturday, when a loss by the local hero will hand the yokozuna the title.
The other wrestler with an outside shot at the title is No. 14 Ikioi, who improved to 10-3 by fending off the attacks of No. 10 Chiyonokuni (6-7) and eventually shoving him out with a desperate lunge.
Sekiwake Tochinoshin (8-5) was taken down by No. 4 maegashira Shodai (7-6).
The other sekiwake wrestler, Mitakeumi, scraped out a vital sixth win in a rambunctious free-for-all with No. 6 maegashira Hokutofuji (6-7). Mitakeumi repeatedly tried to push back and pull down his opponent and at one point was inches from being shoved out.
But Mitakeumi avoiding being slapped down while struggling to keep his feet before slapping down his opponent.