Rank-and-filers Tokushoryu and Shodai both won on Friday to stay in a tie for the lead at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
No. 17 maegashira Tokushoryu and No. 4 Shodai are the only wrestlers with a 12-1 record with two days remaining in the meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. Ozeki Takakeisho trails the pair by a win.
The 15-day tournament continues without yokozuna Hakuho and Kakuryu due to injury, which has allowed rank-and-filers and the sport’s younger wrestlers a chance to take center stage in their absence.
Tokushoryu’s bout against No. 9 Yutakayama (9-4) started as a slap fest in front of a sold-out crowd. Tokushoryu remained calm despite being shoved toward the edge of the ring, and thrust down the 179-kg Yutakayama for the win.
Tokushoryu, whose highest career rank was No. 4 maegashira, is making his return to the elite makuuchi division after three straight meets in the second-tier juryo division. His only loss so far came against No. 16 Kaisei (7-6) on Day 2.
Meanwhile, Shodai easily beat No. 11 Kagayaki (9-4). After the initial charge, Shodai did not allow his opponent a chance to resist his pushes in a one-sided bout and sealed the win in just 5.1 seconds.
Tokushoryu and Shodai will face each other on Saturday. Shodai has won their only matchup.
“There’s no pressure,” Tokushoryu said. “I’m ranked at the very bottom, so even if I lose, it’s no upset.”
Takakeisho continued his pursuit for his second career Emperor’s Cup with a hard-fought win over struggling sekiwake Takayasu (4-9) in the day’s final bout.
The two wrestlers fought aggressively from the initial charge, with Takayasu having several chances to thrust the young ozeki down. Takakeisho, however, remained firm and pushed Takayasu out.
Ozeki Goeido (5-8) pulled off a convincing win over No. 6 Tochinoshin (5-8), a day after his demotion to sekiwake was assured. Goeido held the Georgian’s belt with his left hand and bulldozed his former ozeki rival out without giving Tochinoshin a chance to fight back.
In one of the most anticipated matches of the day, No. 5 Enho overcame a 56-kg disadvantage against komusubi Abi (5-8). Enho, the division lightweight, wrapped his arms around Abi’s right leg and lifted the 155-kg Abi over the straw bales in front of the vocal crowd chanting his name.
“I don’t really remember anything. But I heard the crowd cheering and it made me shake,” Enho (8-5) said. “I’m really glad, but I need to keep gunning.”
Earlier in the day, the Japan Sumo Association announced the retirement of former maegashira Arawashi, who competed in 21 grand tournaments in the makuuchi division.
Arawashi earned three kimboshi prizes for beating a yokozuna, including wins over Hakuho and Kakuryu in the 2017 New Year Basho. He dropped to the third-tier makushita division in September last year largely due to a left knee injury.
Meanwhile, former ozeki Terunofuji, who plummeted from the elite rankings to the lower tiers after having surgery on both knees and missing four straight tournaments, clinched the juryo division championship. With braces on both knees, the 28-year-old Mongolian No. 13 juryo, improved to 13-0 on Friday, leaving him in the running for a possible promotion to the top tier in March.
A loss by his closest title rival handed Terunofuji the championship before he stepped into the ring.
“It would have been embarrassing to back into the championship with a loss,” Terunofuji said. “I want to get back to the makuuchi division. I am going to give it all I have over the last two days.”