Maegashira 3 Tochinoshin wins the January 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, his first-ever top-division championship and the first from a mid-ranked Maegashira since M7 Kyokutenho in 2012. He finished with an outstanding 14-1 record, losing only to Yokozuna Kakuryu on Day 7. Over the course of the tournament he used five different kimarite (winning techniques): yorikiri (9), tsukiotoshi (2), tsukidashi (1), tsuridashi (1), and oshidashi (1).
Ozeki Goeido charges into Yokozuna Kakuryu’s clutches, trading momentum off the tachiai for a left-handed overarm belt grip. It’s a bad trade. Kakuryu plants his feet and rolls Goeido with the overarm throw, both men tumbling off the dohyo in the final bout of the January tournament. Kakuryu gets up pulling on his right fingers (sprain? dislocation?) and treating his right arm/wrist fairly tenderly, so here’s hoping it’s an injury he can recover from before March. His domination for the first ten days of the tournament was a delight to watch, and sumo benefits from a strong Yokozuna (not-subtle-throat-clearing-hints directed at Kisenosato and Hakuho). Goeido finishes with a very Goeido-like 8-7. Kakuryu is probably disappointed with the 11-4 record that put him out of the running for the championship days ago, but it’s his best record since a 14-1 yusho in November of 2016. Alright, that was fun, see you in March!
If you want to be an Ozeki, you got to beat the Ozeki. I mean, that rule’s not written down anywhere, but to put together 33 wins over three consecutive tournaments from the sanyaku ranks (komusubi or sekiwake), which is what’s required for Ozeki promotion, you’re probably going to have to beat some Ozeki. Anyway, Sekiwake Mitakeumi’s not quite ready for that run yet, showing good effort against Ozeki Takayasu until the point when Takayasu gets a right-handed overarm grip and tumbles him to the ground with the uwatenage (overarm throw). Mitakeumi finishes the tournament at 8-7, while Takayasu gets the runner-up spot behind Tochinoshin with an excellent 12-3 record.
Aminishiki pulls one more rabbit out of his hat, pulling down Hokutofuji and sending him stumbling gracelessly off the dohyo. With only three wins this tournament, Aminishiki is facing a likely demotion from Maegashira 10 down to the Juryo division, so we can only hope this wasn’t his last top-division win.
Ikioi drops Yoshikaze with a nice kotenage (arm lock throw) on the last day. Both men finish the tournament a disappointing 4-11, and will meet again next tournament down in the lower end of the top division.
I love bouts on the last day between two 7-7 wrestlers. Both have to give it their all to avoid demotion, and there’s nothing like a potential drop in rank and a pay cut for motivation. Takarafuji and Kotoshogiku do not disappoint with their efforts, but it’s Takarafuji who overcomes Kotoshogiku’s variety of defensive techniques to pick up his kachi-koshi (eight wins or better). ‘Giku tries a huge shoulder slam at the tachiai, diverting Takarafuji to the side. He tries a left-side sukuinage (beltless arm throw). He tries his patented gaburi-yori (belly bump), followed quickly by a smooth triple-combo sukuinage into head pull into kotenage (arm lock throw). But Takarafuji hangs in there until the very end, and walks an exhausted Kotoshogiku over the straw. Takarafuji makes his way back to his side of the ring, breathing deeply himself, one last all-important win under his belt.
7-7 Chiyotairyu is extra-motivated to pick up the all-important eighth win, and he takes it out on Daieisho’s face. Daieisho finishes with a fine 9-6 record.