Sekiwake Terunofuji continued his march toward an ozeki promotion Wednesday at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, staying unbeaten with a gutsy victory over rank-and-file grappler Meisei.
Shodai, meanwhile, became the first of the three ozeki to suffer a second upset loss, falling to No. 2 maegashira Hokutofuji in the final bout on Day 4 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
No. 3 Meisei (2-2) appeared set to spring an upset against Terunofuji, exploding out of the blocks and driving him back to the edge.
But the big Mongolian used an arm-lock hold and his height advantage to counter Meisei’s attempt to dislodge him, then forced the action back to the middle, where he threw the maegashira to the clay.
The 29-year-old Terunofuji is aiming to regain his spot at the sport’s second-highest rank, which he last held in September 2017, before injuries saw him drop down to nearly the very bottom of the sumo hierarchy. He needs 10 or more wins at the ongoing 15-day meet for promotion.
After resisting Hokutofuji’s strong initial charge, Shodai appeared to be in control as he maneuvered the maegashira backward.
But the ozeki gave his opponent an opening with a poorly executed attempt at a pull-down, and it was all Hokutofuji (2-2) needed to regain momentum and shove Shodai out for his second loss.
Hokutofuji said he had planned to hit Shodai (2-2) hard and keep the ozeki away from his belt.
“I just went all out. I just didn’t want Shodai to get an inside position,” he said.
Ozeki Takakeisho sprang back from his loss on Day 3 with a push-out victory over No. 1 Takarafuji that saw him improve to 3-1.
The demotion-threatened kadoban ozeki sent Takarafuji (0-4) backward with a hard shove and pursued him around the ring before sending him out with a final push.
Ozeki Asanoyama improved to 3-1 by toppling No. 1 Onosho. The maegashira had the early momentum as he drove Asanoyama back to the straw, but the bigger, stronger ozeki was able to hold his position and thrust down Onosho (1-3) near the edge.
The ozeki trio is sharing top billing in the absence of both Mongolian-born yokozuna from the March tournament, which has been moved from its traditional home in Osaka because of difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Kakuryu withdrew with a hamstring tear before the start of the meet, while Hakuho, winner of a record 44 top-level titles, pulled out on Day 3 with a knee injury that requires surgery and a likely two-month rehabilitation.
Sekiwake Takanosho improved to 3-1 with an easy push-out against No. 3 Shimanoumi (1-3).
January tournament winner Daieisho remains without a victory after falling to fellow komusubi Takayasu, who had a narrow escape at the edge of the ring.
Daieisho (0-4) burst out of the blocks and looked set for a push out, but former ozeki Takayasu (3-1) slipped to the side at the last moment and thrust him down.
Komusubi Mitakeumi (3-1) bounced back from his Day 3 loss to Takanosho by forcing out No. 2 Wakatakakage (1-3), who was coming off an impressive win against Takakeisho.
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