Although his chances at another title are very slim, Tochinoshin wants to beat Yokozuna Kakuryu if only to avenge his only loss of last tournament. And boy, does that seem to motivate him. The tachiai is even. The belt grips are even. The ring position is even. It seems like the only difference is how red Tochinoshin’s body gets with the sheer effort of out-muscling the Yokozuna. Tochinoshin, through immense force of will and grunting like a cave troll, walks Kakuryu towards the edge and over. (Side note: before this bout, Kakuryu had beaten Tochinoshin twenty-one times against only one loss. Tochinoshin beats Kakuryu today for the first time in seven years. That’s motivated.) Now for the math. At 11-1, Kakuryu is still the sole leader of the tournament due to Kaisei’s loss. Kaisei is in second place at 10-2. Still with a decent shot are both Ozekis Takayasu and Goeido, as well as Daishomaru and Ikioi at 9-3. Much less of a chance but still technically possible is the group of four wrestlers at 8-4, including Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin would need Kakuryu to lose four days in a row, including today, to have a shot. That’s never happened to Kakuryu as Yokozuna, has it? (It happened last tournament.)
This is how you beat a taller, heavier wrestler. Goeido stays low and centered, head down, squared up. With a good belt grip and good foot movement, he’s got total control over Ichinojo’s center of mass. Goeido is at 9-3, Ichinojo at 8-4.
Wait, wait, wait. Chiyomaru, at the rank of Maegashira 5, beats both Ozeki this tournament? Huh. This one’s really on Takayasu, as he takes control of the bout (after getting knocked back by Chiyomaru’s outstanding tachiai) but basically loses track of where the edge of the ring is, stepping out on his own while moving Chiyomaru around. Maybe Chiyomaru had a little to do with it, but Takayasu wants this one back. Takayasu is at 9-3, Chiyomaru at 6-6.
This was literally the only throwing technique in the entire top division today, and it’s beautiful. Mitakeumi looks good at the start, getting a right-handed overarm grip while clamping down on the other side on Shodai’s right arm. But Shodai reaches in for a left-handed underarm grip of his own, and it’s deep on the far side of Mitakeumi’s mawashi knot. Mitakeumi turns to throw Shodai, but his arm trails behind him without applying much force, and his grip on the belt isn’t secure enough to really move Shodai’s hips. Shodai uses his stronger belt grip to keep from falling over. Now it looks like Shodai’s got the advantage, with his left arm high under Mitakeumi’s armpit, hurting Mitakeumi’s posture and keeping that overarm grip relatively harmless. And then, the picture-perfect underarm throw. Stepping in front of Mitakeumi’s right foot with his left, Shodai plants his foot and uses his thigh as a fulcrum, putting all his force into that underarm grip and tossing Mitakeumi onto his back. Slow. Clap. Mitakeumi is now one loss away from his make-koshi at 5-7, while Shodai pulls even at 6-6.
Tamawashi looks strong today, walking Takarafuji out by the throat and peppering slaps at the face with his other hand along the way. Takarafuji can’t dislodge Tamawashi’s arms despite several attempts at deflection, and falls to 2-10. Tamawashi improves to 7-5.
Kaisei’s been on a hot streak, at or near the top of the leaderboard for the entire tournament. Only one loss to Ichinojo has marred his record coming into today’s bout with Endo, and it looks like schedule makers are going to force him to earn a shot at the title by giving him some high-ranked opponents in the last days (Kakuryu tomorrow, for example). Maybe he’s thinking ahead instead of focusing on today, but he stumbles against Endo, who beats him with a soft, slow sidestep that Kaisei really should have avoided. Kaisei can’t stop his forward momentum and steps out on his own. His chances at his first title will depend largely on if Kakuryu wins or loses later in the day… Endo improves to 7-5.
I count four times that Daieisho gets a hand on Asanoyama’s throat. And he’s not wailing away, he’s placing his hand carefully and pushing hard. The fourth time his right hand gets up under Asanoyama’s chin, lifting his head back, and as a general rule, where your head goes your body tends to follow. Asanoyama’s body follows his head backwards, and Daieisho wins by oshitaoshi (front push down). Both wrestlers are one win away from their kachi-koshi at 7-5.