Ozeki Shodai ensured the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament will go down to the final day when he upended sole leader Takayasu on Saturday, March 26 while picking up an all-important eighth win.
There was more drama in the day’s final bout at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium when new sekiwake Wakatakakage beat ozeki Takakeisho to put him into a two-way tie for the lead with Takayasu at 12-2.
Rank-and-filer Kotonowaka also won his bout while eliminating new ozeki Mitakeumi from contention. The three wins mean there will be a first-time champion on Sunday; either Takayasu, Wakatakakage or Kotonowaka.
Wakatakakage will face Shodai in the final match of the tournament. Two matches earlier, Takayasu will take on sekiwake Abi, who is 7-7 in the Spring Basho, while Kotonowaka and Hoshoryu are set to clash.
It’s been an impressive tournament for Wakatakakage, who is fighting in his debut at sekiwake. He was pushed back by Takakeisho but recovered nicely with a frontal force-out of the stunned ozeki, who dropped to 8-6.
“I wanted to stay low and even if I was taken back at the face-off, I tried to keep low and bring out my style of sumo,” Wakatakakage said. “I’ll just try to do my best tomorrow.”
Shodai was also shoved back to the edge shortly after the face-off but deployed a perfect beltless arm throw to send No. 7 maegashira Takayasu toppling off the raised ring.
Shodai, who started the tournament off with a dismal performance in the first week, completely turned things around in the second week and wrapped up a winning record on Saturday when he improved to 8-6. That means he will retain his ozeki rank for the next tournament in May.
Takayasu could have claimed his first Emperor’s Cup on Saturday with a win over Shodai and a loss by Wakatakakage, but neither happened and he will now have to wait another day.
Kotonowaka (left) and Mitakeumi square off at the start of their match. (ⒸSANKEI)
No. 6 maegashira Kotonowaka got both hands inside on Mitakeumi and shoved the new ozeki out to stay in the title chase at 11-3 while knocking Mitakeumi out of contention.
Mitakeumi was hoping to win his first tournament at sumo’s second-highest rank after being promoted in January, but couldn’t get it done over the final week when he lost three times and now stands at 10-4.
“Mitakeumi has a lot of power so I didn’t want to allow him to bring his A-game,” said Kotonowaka. “I just want to do good sumo on the final day and see what happens.”
Hoshoryu tosses Endo out of the raised ring. (ⒸSANKEI)
In other major bouts, komusubi Hoshoryu improved to 7-7 when he dodged to his left and slapped Endo down. Hoshoryu will be eager to wrap up a winning record on the final day to keep his “sannyaku” status in May.
Fourth-ranked Endo is also at 7-7 and will be bidding for a winning record on the final day of competition.
Sumo’s flying monkey Tobizaru, a ninth-ranked maegashira, wrapped up a winning record when he used a frontal push-down to defeat Kiribayama and improve to 8-6. No. 4 Kiribayama fell to 9-5.
In a highly entertaining bout, Tochinoshin prevailed with a hard-fought win over Wakamotoharu.
No. 15 maegashira Tochinoshin attempted two arm throws before finally using a frontal force-out to improve to a very respectable 9-5.
No. 9 Wakamotoharu threw Tochinoshin down with a dynamic arm throw at the end of the bout but had already stepped out and dropped to 8-6.
Another crowd-pleasing match came when Kotoeko used an impressive beltless arm throw at the edge to topple Sadanoumi.
No. 12 Kotoeko picked up his ninth win against five losses while struggling eighth-ranked maegashira Sadanoumi fell to 4-10 and will be moving down the rankings for the next tournament.
Follow Jim’s daily reports on the sumo Spring Basho here.
Author: Jim Armstrong
New Year Basho Tournament Records