Summer Basho winner Asanoyama will fight as a sekiwake for the first time at next month’s New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, the latest rankings released by the Japan Sumo Association on Tuesday showed.
The 25-year-old rising star earned promotion to sumo’s third-highest rank after going 11-4 as a new komusubi at last month’s Kyushu Basho. While pursuing a second top-division trophy, he kept pace with yokozuna Hakuho until late in the meet.
Asanoyama is the third wrestler from Toyama Prefecture to reach sekiwake and first since Kotogaume in 1986.
“I’m aiming to progress higher in the banzuke. I won’t feel confident unless I post double-digit wins as sekiwake,” Asanoyama told reporters at Takasago Stable in Tokyo.
“I always compete like a challenger. I’m going to fight my own fight.”
Hakuho, who won his 43rd makuuchi title in an injury-thinned field in Fukuoka, remains on top of the rankings as east yokozuna for 2020’s first grand tournament, which begins on Jan. 12 at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
“The arrival of the new year means the clock ticks closer to the Tokyo Olympics. I won two championships this year, so I want to make it three next year and climb the ladder one step at a time,” Hakuho said.
Kakuryu occupies the west yokozuna slot after sitting out the Kyushu meet with a back injury.
Takakeisho is the east ozeki with Goeido in the west as a demotion-threatened kadoban ozeki. Takayasu was demoted after posting two straight losing records and takes the sekiwake slot opposite Asanoyama.
After abruptly withdrawing in November with acute back pain, Takayasu can secure automatic promotion back to the sport’s second-highest rank with at least 10 wins in Tokyo.
Daieisho was bumped up to komusubi, landing in the three sanyaku ranks below yokozuna for the first time. Komusubi Abi retained his position for the fourth straight meet.
Mitakeumi, who won a second makuuchi title in September, went 6-9 last month and forfeited his sekiwake rank, falling three places to No. 2 maegashira. Tochinoshin missed out on a bid for an ozeki promotion after sustaining a rib injury and dropped to No. 6.
Endo and Hokutofuji both failed to secure a winning record at the last meet and lost their komusubi positions, dropping to No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
Among the rank-and-file, Azumaryu, Ikioi, Tochiozan, Kaisei and Tokushoryu all return to the top tier, while Mongolian-born Kiribayama is set to make his makuuchi debut.
Injuries forced Tomokaze, Ichinojo and Wakatakakage back to the second division, where they will be joined by Nishikigi, Daishomaru and Daishoho following losing performances in Kyushu.
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