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Kotonowaka Locked in a Three-Way Tie for the New Year Basho Lead

Former ozeki Asanoyama became the latest big-name wrestler forced to withdraw from the 15-day New Year Basho due to an ankle injury.

Sekiwake Kotonowaka manhandled Daieisho on Monday, January 22 to remain tied for the lead with two rank-and-filers on a day when the New Year Basho lost another prominent wrestler to injury.  

In the day's final bout at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, yokozuna Terunofuji posted a hard-fought win over No 5 maegashira Nishikigi to improve to 7-2 and stay one win off the pace with fellow Mongolians Kirishima and Hoshoryu.

New Year Basho
Yokozuna Terunofuji (right) clashes with Nishikigi on Day 9. (KYODO)

Kotonowaka fought off a barrage of arm thrusts to the upper body and then got a right-hand grip on the belt of his fellow sekiwake before driving him out over the edge.

With the win, Kotonowaka, who is gunning for promotion to ozeki, improved to 8-1. He is now tied for the lead with rank-and-filers Onosho and Onosato.

"I just trusted myself and did my style of sumo," Kotonowaka said.

He added, "I knew if I was able to get a grip on the belt I would be in a good position and that's what I was able to do. I'll just try to get as many wins as possible."

Asanoyama (KYODO)

Injured Asanoyama Pulls Out of New Year Basho

Joint leader Asanoyama withdrew from the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday after injuring his right ankle in Sunday's loss to veteran Tamawashi.

The former ozeki forfeited his bout on Monday against No 14 Onosho. Asanoyama dropped out of a share of the lead with a record of seven wins and two losses.

With the win by default, Onosho improved to 8-1, wrapping up a winning record and staying tied for the lead.

Asanoyama's stablemaster, Takasago, was quoted by Kyodo News as saying the No 7 maegashira may return to the tournament if his ankle improves in the coming days.

But pulling out with a share of the lead was a huge setback for Asanoyama.

The popular 29-year-old native of Toyama Prefecture was bidding for his second Emperor's Cup and first since July 2022 when he returned from a year-long suspension after violating the Japan Sumo Association's COVID-19 safety rules.

Other big name grapplers who have pulled out of the tournament due to injury include ozeki Takakeisho and komusubi Takayasu. Former komusubi Hotutofuji also pulled out on Monday with an injured knee and dropped to 4-5.

New Year Basho
Kirishima (right) overpowers Shodai in a New Year Basho bout. (ⒸSANKEI)

Kirishima Holds Off Shodai

In other major bouts, ozeki Kirishima dodged a bullet when he barely defeated No 4 maegashira Shodai. 

Kirishima forced Shodai back to the edge but the former ozeki used a twisting-down motion to force Kirishima out. Both men appeared to step out at the same time but the ringside judges ruled that Shodai went out first.

Mongolian Kirishima is bidding for promotion to grand champion and another loss would have seriously dented those hopes. Kirishima raised his record to 7-2 while Shodai dropped to 4-5.

Ozeki Hoshoryu also kept in the title chase and improved to 7-2 when he bulldozed out No 5 maegashira Ryuden, who dropped to 3-6. 

New Year Basho
Onosato (left) vies for a victory against Meisei. (KYODO)

It's just a shoe!

Onosoato Continues to Impress

Further down the ranks, up-and-coming rookie Onosato (8-1) got a right hand inside on Meisei and drove the No 9 maegashira out in a matter of seconds to maintain his share of the lead. Meisei fell to 5-4.

No 15 maegashira Onosato, who wrapped up a winning record, will take on Kotonowaka on Day 10 in a featured bout. 

"My game plan was the same as usual, just to remain calm and move forward," said Onosato. "My initial charge is getting better and better. I've still got six days to go and will just try to do my best."

Onosato, who is 23, is a native of Ishikawa Prefecture. He said he is happy to provide people who suffered through the New Year's Day Noto earthquake in the prefecture some inspiration. 

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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