Sole leader Takayasu held onto his one-win buffer Thursday at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament after overcoming dangerous rank-and-file opponent Hokutofuji.
The komusubi improved to 10-2 on Day 12 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan with a push-out victory that kept him in front of ozeki Asanoyama and sekiwake Terunofuji, who are both 9-3.
Following his second defeat on Day 11, Takayasu was determined to avoid joining sekiwake Takanosho, and two ozeki, Takakeisho and Shodai, in losing to giant-killing No. 2 maegashira Hokutofuji (7-5) at the 15-day meet.
After parrying Hokutofuji’s initial thrusting attack, the former ozeki used an underarm grip to wrench his opponent off balance, spin him around, and shove him out.
Asanoyama was in commanding form as he drove komusubi Mitakeumi to the brink of a losing record at 5-7. The ozeki landed a strong opening hit and took an inside grip that enabled him to quickly bundle Mitakeumi from the ring.
Takakeisho (8-4), fighting as a demotion-threatened kadoban ozeki, guaranteed his place at sumo’s second-highest rank by pushing out No. 5 Okinoumi (3-9).
The two-time grand tournament winner was facing demotion after failing to win eight bouts in January, but used his trademark pushing and thrusting to quickly secure his winning record here.
Shodai (7-5) is one win away from avoiding kadoban status at the next meet after slapping down Takanosho (6-6). Having struggled early in the meet, the 29-year-old ozeki has won three straight bouts, including his impressive Day 11 victory over Takayasu.
The three ozeki are sharing top billing in the absence of both yokozuna following the withdrawal of Kakuryu and Hakuho. Kakuryu announced his retirement from competition Wednesday, while Hakuho is expected to miss two months following knee surgery.
Terunofuji practically guaranteed his promotion back to ozeki following a close call against No. 6 Tamawashi (5-7).
The big Mongolian needed to dig deep against his hard-hitting compatriot, thrusting down the one-time Emperor’s Cup winner after being pinned by the arm and forced to the edge.
Terunofuji last held the rank of ozeki in 2017, before knee injuries saw him plummet to the depths of sumo’s lower divisions.
After starting the day tied with Terunofuji and Asanoyama, No. 8 Tobizaru (8-4) dropped off the pace with a loss to No. 3 Meisei (8-4), who earned his crucial eighth win.
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