Hakuho suffered his second-straight upset loss at the July Grand Sumo Tournament to leave new ozeki Asanoyama tied for the lead with rank-and-file grappler Terunofuji on Thursday.
A day after his first defeat at the hands of komusubi Daieisho, yokozuna Hakuho (10-2) was outmaneuvered by sekiwake Mitakeumi (9-3) and surrendered his place at the front of the pack.
The yokozuna opened the final bout of Day 12 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan with a powerful face slap and drove Mitakeumi to the edge with a solid belt grip. With Hakuho seemingly set for victory, Mitakeumi pivoted with one foot on the straw to execute a thrust down.
“I’m happy. I was in trouble there, but I just made the move at the edge,” said Mitakeumi, who improved to 4-11 head-to-head against the Mongolian-born great, who is pursuing a record 45th top-division title.
Asanoyama (11-1) stayed in the running for the Emperor’s Cup in his first tournament as ozeki by throwing down No. 5 Hokutofuji (7-5).
The ozeki opened with a solid hit and took a right-arm grip beneath Hokutofuji’s left armpit. The former komusubi held on gallantly, but eventually succumbed to a beltless arm throw.
Terunofuji — a No. 17 maegashira who once held the rank of ozeki — beat fellow Mongolian No. 9 Tamawashi to move a step closer to the championship in his first top-division tournament since January 2018.
Tamawashi (8-4) tried to keep Terunofuji (11-1) at a distance with a series of slaps, but the former ozeki traded blows before finding the opening for a force out.
Following his impressive win over Hakuho, Daieisho improved to 8-4 with a victory by default over Takakeisho (8-4).
Having secured the eighth win needed to avoid demotion on Day 11, Takakeisho withdrew from the tournament to rest an injured medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
The victory gave Daieisho his first winning record fighting from sumo’s three elite sanyaku ranks below yokozuna.
“I’m happy about that. As long as I’m doing my sumo, the (winning record) is what I aim for,” Daieisho said.
Sekiwake Shodai snapped out of a two-match losing skid and improved to 9-3 by forcing out No. 6 Enho (5-7).
The Tokitsukaze stable grappler resisted an attempted belt-hold by 96-kg fan favorite Enho, pinning his arms before driving him over the straw.
No. 14 Wakatakakage secured his first winning record in the elite makuuchi division at 8-4 after outlasting veteran No. 16 Nishikigi.
The result marked a triumphant return to the top flight for the 25-year-old, who has been hitting the weight room following an injury withdrawal just five days into his only previous makuuchi tournament last November.
“My debut was not so great, so I decided to put on some weight. I did it by working out, not (just) eating, so it’s all muscle,” said Wakatakakage, who is scheduled to fight veteran No. 10 Myogiryu on Day 13.
Myogiryu (8-4), a former sekiwake, picked up his crucial eighth win by forcing out No. 14 Kotoshogiku (8-4).
Komusubi Okinoumi (7-5) earned his third straight win by pulling down No. 4 Kagayaki (4-8). He will gun for his eighth win against Enho on Friday.