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).
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.
Yokozuna Kakuryu clinches the title with his Day 14 win over Ozeki Goeido. At 13-1, even a loss tomorrow can’t deny him the championship, as the closest competitors have three losses already. Goeido plays his part, letting his upper body get way out ahead of his feet and falling victim to Kakuryu’s expected retreat-and-pull. Kakuryu will win his fourth tournament championship, and his first in about a year and a half.
This tournament’s only Ozeki-on-Ozeki battle starts with a good tachiai, Takayasu pushing on Goeido’s head and Goeido getting his hands tangled in the silk strings on the front of Takayasu’s belt. Takayasu shifts strategy, suddenly pulling down on Goeido’s head and retreating, with Goeido stumbling forward and falling to a 9-4 record and out of yusho contention. Takayasu improves to 10-3, still two losses behind tournament leader Kakuryu but mathematically still in it.
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.
Goeido makes up for yesterday’s henka with a strong showing against Shodai today. He keeps his arms tight inside at the tachiai and is rewarded with a right-handed underarm grip that he uses to spin Shodai around and get the easy win. Goeido improves to 8-3, Shodai falls to 5-6.
Oh, the henka. Touchy subject. The sideways jump that avoids all contact at the tachiai and can lead to an easy win over an unsuspecting opponent, at the cost of some pride at not giving a fair fight. Usually forgiven when executed by smaller wrestlers on occasion, but generally frowned upon by the sumo elders. Definitely frowned upon when used by upper-ranked wrestlers. Absolutely poo-pooed when performed by an Ozeki or Yokozuna. But often highly entertaining, especially in the charged environment of a live arena. Actually hard to precisely define, exactly. But Goeido, today . . . this is a henka. Unabashed. No bueno.