• Kyodo

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After back-to-back wins against ozeki opponents, No. 2 maegashira Hokutofuji brought down sole tournament leader Myogiryu on Friday, the sixth day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

The 28-year-old Hokutofuji (4-2), coming off wins against Shodai on Wednesday and Takakeisho on Thursday, handed Myogiryu his first loss of the tournament, dropping the 34-year-old veteran back into a group of six wrestlers with 5-1 records.

Starting the day with a one-win lead, Myogiryu had numerous chances to seal the win but was unable to react quickly enough when those openings presented himself. Hokutofuji patiently kept Myogiryu off his belt and bided his time until he could win with an oshidashi push out.

A day after a frustrating first loss, sekiwake Terunofuji regained a share of the lead at 5-1 after a tough struggle against No. 4 Kiribayama (2-4). Terunofuji, seeking the 10-plus wins he needs to regain the ozeki ranking he last held in 2017, ended the bout by grabbing a second hold, hoisting Kiribayama off his feet by his belt and dropping him emphatically on the far side of the straw bales.

With the yokozuna duo of Kakuryu and Hakuho out with injuries, the three ozeki are expected to be the big guns here. But so far, only Asanonoyama has met those great expectations. The lone ozeki to beat Hokutofuji, Asanoyama improved to 5-1 with a dominant win over No. 2 Wakatakakage.

Asanoyama overpowered the maegashira from the jump and forced him out to his fourth loss.

Shodai (2-4) suffered his third straight loss, after No. 3 Meisei (3-3) put him on the defensive from the start. Just when Shodai appeared to have the upper hand, Meisei flustered him with a lightning-quick counter. As Shodai hesitated, Meisei took over and forced the ozeki out.

Takakeisho earned the four of the eight wins needed to avoid relegation to sekiwake after failing to win eight in January. The ozeki beat No. 3 Shimanoumi (1-5) with a relentless shoving attack from the opening charge.

Sekiwake Takanosho and former ozeki Takayasu each gained a share of the lead at 5-1. Takanosho bundled out No. 1 Onosho (2-4), while Takayasu defeated fellow komusubi Mitakeumi (3-3).

No. 9 Chiyonokuni also joined the leaders with a solid defensive move after getting forced back on his heels by a strong charge from No. 7 Kagayaki (2-4). Chiyonokuni quickly recovered, got to his opponent’s left and used Kagayaki’s momentum against him with a hikiotoshi hand pull down.

Two foreign-born wrestlers, however, missed their chance to hang with the front-runners.

Brazilian No. 16 Kaisei suffered his second loss when he leaned the wrong way against surprisingly quick Akiseyama (4-2). The No. 12 spun him around and shoved him out from behind.

Bulgarian No. 12 Aoiyama followed Kaisei into the ring and did a better job of squaring up his opponent. No. 10 Ryuden (2-4), however, also proved too quick and was able to shove him out.

The March tourney is traditionally held in Osaka, where it opened a year ago — the first grand tournament behind closed doors. But amid the difficulties posed by the ongoing pandemic, the Japan Sumo Association chose to stage its fifth straight tourney in Tokyo.

A total of 28 lower-ranked wrestlers have been ruled out from the meet for coronavirus-related reasons, compared to 65 sidelined in January.

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