Yokozuna Kakuryu wins the March 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, his fourth top-division championship and his first since November 2016. He finished with an excellent 13-2 record, losing only to defending champ Tochinoshin and Ozeki Takayasu. Over the course of the tournament he used four different kimarite (winning techniques): hatakikomi (6), yorikiri (3), oshidashi (3), and tsukiotoshi (1).
Having wrapped up the tournament on the previous day, Yokozuna Kakuryu provides us with a last bit of entertainment in the final bout of the tournament. He meets Ozeki Takayasu in the center of the ring and immediately falls victim to Takayasu’s powerful tachiai. Kakuryu tries for a few moments to push back against the furious Ozeki, but soon resorts to pulling on his head and running backwards. Takayasu follows and launches forward, pushing Kakuryu right to the edge of the ring but falling down in the process. The judges want to talk about the ref’s decision in favor of Kakuryu, and a lengthy conference ensues. After much discussion, the announcement is made: Kakuryu’s heel touched out at the same time that Takayasu hit the dirt, so let’s have a rematch! The do-over starts much the same way as the first time around, with Takayasu knocking Kakuryu back off his line. The difference this time is that Takayasu doesn’t fall down. He bulls Kakuryu around the ring and keeps his feet under him, being extra careful to stop his momentum at the ring’s edge to send Kakuryu packing without ever being in danger himself. Takayasu finishes with a record of 12-3, runner-up for the second consecutive tournament. Kakuryu wins his fourth-ever championship with a record of 13-2.
Sekiwake Mitakeumi finishes the tournament with a disappointing record of 7-8, with his final day performance against Ozeki Goeido being one of the few bright spots. The two are fairly evenly matched in size and strength, and Mitakeumi has to keep his feet moving to match Goeido’s energy in this bout. Goeido uses a left-handed overarm grip to muscle Mitakeumi towards the edge of the ring, but when he loses that grip he’s forced to retreat. Mitakeumi sticks to him like natto on rice and crushes the Ozeki under his weight to win by abisetaoshi (backward force down). Goeido ends up with a 9-6 record.
Lesson for the day: Do not get in a contest of strength with Tochinoshin. The dude is rock-solid. Ichinojo exhibits a display of his own power, lifting Tochinoshin clear off the ground, but he can’t finish the move and all he succeeds in doing is pissing off Tochinoshin. As soon as his feet are back on the ground Tochinoshin turns on the jets and marches Ichinojo out of the ring. Tochinoshin finishes the tournament at 10-5 and wins the Shukun-sho prize for Outstanding Performance, usually awarded to a wrestler who beats the tournament champion. Currently ranked at Sekiwake, a good run over the next two tournaments could put him in contention for Ozeki promotion.
Despite losing on the last day to Shohozan (who is fired up at 7-7 and needing the win), Endo earns the prestigious Gino-sho (Technique Prize) with a 9-6 record overall. Personally, I’m not really sure he deserves it, as he won quite a few times going backwards and not exhibiting particularly stellar technique, but I guess those in the decision-making position decided his pull-downs were well-executed. And I guess he did beat both Ozeki, a Sekiwake and a Komusubi. Endo will likely see a promotion back up to the sanyaku rank of Komusubi next tournament.
Because the severity of your demotion depends on how far under .500 you finish, every win counts even after you’ve dropped eight losses. Veteran Kotoshogiku understands this and fights like mad to stay in, borrowing a page from newbie Ryuden’s book to plant his heels on the straw bales and refuse to be pushed out. The crowd appreciates the effort and roars in approval when Kotoshogiku recovers from a strong nodowa (throat push) to reset in the center, finding a left-handed underarm belt grip to give him enough leverage to push Hokutofuji the length of the dohyo and out the other side. Both men finish the tournament at 6-9.
Kaisei was living the dream for the first half of the tournament, a serious contender until the last few days when Kakuryu knocked him off his pedestal. He should be very pleased with a 12-3 record and a Kanto-sho prize for Fighting Spirit, punctuated with a good uwatenage (overarm throw) victory over Ikioi on the last day. Ikioi also had a great tournament despite an injured leg, finishing at 11-4. Hopefully both men are healthy next time around and continuing to threaten the top ranks.