Yokozuna Hakuho survived a scare against rank-and-file opponent Hokutofuji to remain perfect at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan on Wednesday.
With headlines on the fourth day of the 15-day tournament dominated by the retirement of Japanese yokozuna Kisenosato, the other remaining yokozuna, Mongolian Kakuryu, was also victorious.
Hakuho, looking to extend his record win total to 42 top-division titles, faced stiffer-than-expected competition against No. 2 maegashira Hokutofuji (3-1), who was looking for a second-straight win against the Mongolian.
With both wrestlers slapping and thrusting from the outset, Hokutofuji gained momentum and drove Hakuho to the edge of the straw.
The maegashira looked set for a thrust-out win as Hakuho teetered on one foot, but the yokozuna refused to fall and managed to slip to the side, executing a downward thrust that sent both men tumbling off the dohyo.
After initially ruling Hakuho the winner, the judges confirmed the decision following a conference in the ring.
Coming off back-to-back losses, Kakuryu (2-2) showed off his typical swiftness off the mark against komusubi Myogiryu (1-3).
Kakuryu pushed Myogiryu to the edge after his attempt at a shallow grip was blocked, but the Hyogo Prefecture native was able to evade a push-out. Myogiryu dodged an attempted slap down, but with Kakuryu maintaining momentum, a second attempt at a push-out was successful.
Ozeki Takayasu, a junior stablemate of Kisenosato and fellow Ibaraki Prefecture native, improved to 2-2 with a rapid-fire win over No. 1 Tochiozan (1-3).
Takayasu hit his opponent hard in their initial clash, unleashing a flurry of blows as he quickly drove his way to a victory with a thrusting attack.
Ozeki Goeido (0-4) continued his nightmare tournament, losing by frontal force-out against top-ranked maegashira Ichinojo in a bout lasting more than one-and-a-half minutes.
The 226-kg Ichinojo survived an attempted force-out by Goeido, holding his ground at the edge of the ring. Though the ozeki gained a double inside grip, Ichinojo countered by taking his opponent’s belt with both hands on the outside.
Each time Goeido tried to muscle his way to victory, the giant Ichinojo stood firm. He eventually used his roughly 60-kg advantage to maneuver the ozeki to the straw and hoist him out backwards.
With the win, Ichinojo (3-1) has already notched victories over a yokozuna and two ozeki during the tournament.
“I’m in good shape. I just want to stay calm and confident,” Ichinojo said. “If I can get the belt grip, I feel like I’m in control.”
Another ozeki, the injury-plagued Tochinoshin, also dropped to 0-4 with a loss to Mongolian sekiwake Tamawashi (3-1).
Already carrying a nagging knee injury, Tochinoshin hurt his right leg in practice before the tournament.
The big Georgian tried to establish an inside position at the jump with his right hand, but Tamawashi fended him off with a stiff arm. As Tamawashi drove forward, Tochinoshin was unable to hold his ground and succumbed to a push-out.
Komusubi Mitakeumi remained perfect as he handed sekiwake Takakeisho (3-1), winner of the previous grand tournament, his first loss of the meet.
Takakeisho, the youngest wrestler in the top division, was looking for payback against Mitakeumi, who was one of only two opponents to beat him last November in Kyushu.
Mitakeumi, meanwhile, was seeking to prove a point against a younger wrestler who had leapfrogged him in the race for promotion to ozeki.
The komusubi opened with a hard charge and maintained his momentum against Takakeisho, thrusting with both hands to drive his opponent out backward.
Among other rank-and-file wrestlers, No. 15 Chiyonokuni stayed perfect with a thrust-out win over juryo Aminishiki (1-3). No. 6 Onosho and No. 8 Kaisei remain spotless as well after wins against No. 5 Aoiyama (3-1) and No. 7 Daieisho (1-3), respectively.
No. 2 Nishikigi also improved to 4-0 on Day 4 after winning his scheduled match against Kisenosato by forfeit.