• Kyodo

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Former ozeki Kotoshogiku, the oldest wrestler in sumo's top two divisions, has officially retired from competition and will take on the role of a toshiyori elder under the name Hidenoyama at the Sadogatake stable, the Japan Sumo Association said Sunday.

The 36-year-old makuuchi-division stalwart had dropped down to the second-tier juryo ranks for the first time in 15 years at the ongoing November Grand Sumo Tournament before deciding to close the curtain on his 19-year career.

Having been granted the toshiyori elder designation reserved for wrestlers who reached a sufficiently high level in their sporting career, Kotoshogiku is permitted to establish, run and coach in his own stable in retirement.

"My real feeling is that I wanted to continue sumo if I could. I thought it was about time to retire, as I no longer felt able to wrestle the way I wanted," Kotoshogiku said in an online news conference. "I've done all I could."

"There are many (young wrestlers) who hit a wall and struggle. I want to train them so they can see what's on the other side."

Known for hustling opponents out of the ring with his torso, Kotoshogiku had been a regular fixture in the top division for 92 straight tournaments, seventh on sumo's all-time list, and recorded 718 makuuchi wins since his debut in January 2002, the sixth-most in the sport's history.

He was promoted to ozeki in 2011 and won his only championship at the New Year meet in 2016, where he became the first Japan-born wrestler in a decade to claim the Emperor's Cup.

Battling through knee injuries, Kotoshogiku lost his status at the sport's second-highest rank in 2017 and had struggled to return to the three sanyaku ranks below yokozuna over the last three years.

He withdrew partway through the September tournament with a left calf injury and pulled out of the ongoing meet at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Saturday with a 1-5 record.

In addition to his makuuchi division title, Kotoshogiku earned three Outstanding Performance Prizes, four Technique Prizes and three kinboshi prizes for defeating a grand champion as a rank-and-file maegashira.

"Writing my name in the sumo record books is something I can be proud of," Kotoshogiku said. "My experience in sumo will serve me in good stead for the rest of my life. There are many things I want to study for the next chapter."

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