Nagoya - Sekiwake Mitakeumi secured his first top division title after beating Tochiozan and maintaining his two-win lead on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
Mitakeumi, who made his makuuchi division debut in November 2015, clinched the championship by beating No. 13 maegashira Tochiozan (9-5), a former sekiwake who had won just one of their previous six career meetings.
As both wrestlers scrambled for a hold, it was Mitakeumi who first got a solid grip on Tochiozan’s belt. When Tochiozan attempted to maneuver, the sekiwake quickly got under his opponent’s left shoulder and drove him out.
“I’m happy. I was so nervous during the last few days, but hearing people cheer, I felt like I had to win,” Mitakeumi said.
“I never imagined I would win this tournament,” he also said. “After I got to 10 wins, I started thinking I might win. Beating an ozeki was a big turning point.”
Mitakeumi’s undefeated run was broken by ozeki Takayasu on Day 12 of the 15-day event at Dolphins Arena. But Mitakeumi bounced back by defeating ozeki Goeido on Friday.
His path to the championship was made easier by the withdrawal from the tournament of all three yokozuna — Hakuho, Kakuryu and Kisenosato — as well as new ozeki Tochinoshin and former ozeki Kotoshogiku, all due to injuries.
Mitakeumi said he didn’t feel any pressure with all three yokozuna out of the tournament.
“I didn’t really think much about it,” Mitakeumi said. “My goal was to get a winning record, win in double digits and win a championship. And somehow I managed it.”
The win marks 22 victories for Mitakeumi during the last two tournaments, making promotion to ozeki a possibility depending on his performance at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in September.
The 25-year-old will become the first Japanese wrestler born in the Heisei era and the first Dewanoumi stable wrestler in 38 years to win a makuuchi title. He fights No. 9 Yutakayama on the final day.
In other bouts, Yutakayama (11-3) quickly defeated ozeki Takayasu (9-5), while ozeki Goeido (9-5) succumbed to sekiwake Ichinojo (7-7).
Both komusubi also suffered losses on Day 14 as No. 6 Chiyotairyu (9-5) charged out Tamawashi (8-6) and No. 4 Kagayaki (6-8) beat Shohozan (3-11), who will likely forfeit his rank for September’s meet after failing to secure a winning record.
In the first half of bouts, Asanoyama earned an 11th win and his best-ever top division record since his makuuchi debut last September after beating No. 6 Endo (8-6).
The No. 13 maegashira got his right shoulder under his popular opponent during the initial charge and quickly forced out Endo, who has won just one bout in his last six.
Asanoyama, who along with Yutakayama was two wins off the pace going into Saturday’s bouts, needed Mitakeumi to lose in order to remain in contention.
Among other lower-ranked wrestlers, No. 5 Yoshikaze finally earned his first win by defeating No. 16 Meisei. The former sekiwake, who had lost 13 straight bouts, powered his opponent to the edge and then deposited him over the straw.