Yokozuna Kakuryu recovered from his second upset of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament to reclaim a share of the lead with rank-and-filer Asanoyama, who suffered his second loss of the meet on Thursday.
Kakuryu (10-2) was momentarily pushed back by No. 5 maegashira Ryuden (7-5) in the final bout of the day at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, but the yokozuna executed a slick turnaround to swap positions with the maegashira and drive him out upright while pinning down his left arm.
The yokozuna will take on ozeki Takayasu on Friday in his challenge for a sixth makuuchi-division title.
Earlier in the day, Asanoyama (10-2) was put on the backfoot by No. 3 Tamawashi (8-4) but was unable to recover like his co-leader, giving up the sole lead he seized following Day 11 upsets from Kakuryu and sekiwake Tochinoshin.
The No. 8 maegashira was immediately driven back by a powerful initial charge from Tamawashi, and the Mongolian jammed him up on the straw bales with a chest bump until Asanoyama fell out.
For the second straight day, Tochinoshin (9-3) was unable to secure promotion back to ozeki and fell one win off the pace after getting forced out by No. 7 Meisei (8-4).
The Georgian might have lost his rhythm during an extended standoff before the initial charge and was quickly driven back to the edge of the ring.
Tochinoshin tried to pull down the rank-and-filer but his opponent’s charge sent him out with his foot landing on the wrong side of the ring just before Meisei fell to the clay. The sekiwake meets Asanoyama in a decisive bout on Friday.
In other matches, ozeki Goeido improved record to 8-4 by beating No. 6 Takarafuji (7-5). The ozeki got an inside edge with underarm right-handed grip and eventually succeeded with an overarm throw after Takarafuji had weathered several attempts.
On the other hand, Takayasu (7-5) will have to continue chasing a winning record after being promptly pulled down by No. 4 Abi (8-4), who secured his winning mark at the expense of the struggling ozeki. Takayasu tried to raise the maegashira upward with an initial forearm shove but was surprisingly and effortlessly shut down.
The two heaviest men in the top division battled it out for over a minute, with sekiwake Ichinojo (3-6-3) emerging victorious against Aoiyama (5-7) and pushing the komusubi closer to a demotion.
The 227-kg Ichinojo appeared to be in the worse position in his lock-up with the 193-kg Bulgarian but was able to use his extra bulk to claim a force-out win.
Mitakeumi defeated No. 2 Daieisho (5-7) and improved to 7-5. The komusubi was taken back to the edge after trading thrusts with his opponent, but circled around and rallied to force Daieisho upright and out.
In another highlight bout of the day, No. 15 Kotoeko (8-4) was unable to overcome No. 4 Okinoumi (4-8).
Kotoeko struggled to make headway against the former sekiwake and ended up getting shoved out after an awkward attempt at an overarm throw failed to dislodge the veteran.