Yokozuna Hakuho wins the May 2017 Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, earning his 38th top-division championship with a perfect record of 15-0. Over the course of fifteen wins he used seven different kimarite (winning techniques): yorikiri (5), hatakikomi (2), uwatenage (2), uwatedashinage (2), yoritaoshi (2), uwatehineri, and oshidashi. Congrats to the champ!
Fantastic end to the tournament, one of the best bouts of the entire two weeks. Hakuho has already clinched the tournament, but fellow Yokozuna Harumafuji would love to play spoiler and prevent Hakuho from getting a perfect 15-0 record. The bout is even with a ton of back and forth, Harumafuji driving Hakuho to the edge, and Hakuho fighting back to the center. Harumafuji has good grips with both hands on Hakuho’s belt, right hand under and left hand over, but Hakuho only has the right-handed underarm grip on Harumafuji. He strains with his left arm, knowing that the overarm grip on that side will turn the tide of the bout in his favor, but Harumafuji can make his torso incredibly long to keep his hips out of reach. Harumafuji charges again, Hakuho reaches again, and no one can get the advantage. Hakuho defends once more at the edge of the ring and now his left arm is on the other side of Harumafuji’s body, so I can’t see exactly when it happens, but there’s a sudden movement, a jerk of their bodies, and I think that’s when Hakuho gets the grip he’s been looking for. Harumafuji knows his doom has come, and tries one last gasp effort to mount some offense. But Hakuho takes a breath and lets go with his right hand so that he can push against Harumafuji’s body, giving him the leverage he needs to shake his right hip free from Harumafuji’s overarm belt grip. Once that grip is broken, Hakuho uses his right arm to lift up Harumafuji’s torso and walk him out the other side of the dohyo. Fifteen days, fifteen wins. Hakuho wins his 38th top-division championship with a perfect record. Harumafuji finishes at 11-4.
It’s an epic bout with the tournament on the line, with Ozeki Terunofuji needing to defeat Yokozuna Hakuho to have any chance at a championship. A win by Hakuho today will separate him from the second-place wrestlers by two losses with only one day remaining, guaranteeing him his 38th title. Hakuho fakes the face slap, opting to go in and meet Terunofuji head on at the tachiai. From there on out it’s a tactical battle, with Terunofuji doing a fantastic job staying low and fighting off the Yokozuna’s arms. But Terunofuji can’t get a belt grip either, and eventually Hakuho’s strength is too much to overcome. Hakuho pushes out Terunofuji, taking him over the edge with an extra shove to let him know who’s boss. Congrats to Hakuho, finishing the day still perfect at 14-0, and winning the top-division championship no matter what happens tomorrow.
This one’s a bit long, but it’s a prime example of the tension that builds before a sumo bout, a facet of the sport that’s missing from most highlight videos. Check out the stare as they slowly settle in for the charge. Ice cold. The crowd feels it. Tamawashi flinches at the tachiai and decides to reset, standing back up and forcing Hakuho to go through the motions again. Hakuho purposefully sets his feet and lowers himself to meet Tamawashi, but this time it’s Hakuho who appears unnerved(!) and stands up. The crowd goes nuts and the referee looks flummoxed. The build-up is intense, and the referee tells both men several times to get their hands down. This time the bout goes off without a hitch, but Hakuho slaps and sidesteps at the tachiai! Tamawashi does a great job fighting off the fierce throat attacks of Hakuho and working to get a belt grip, but Hakuho has a mighty left-handed overarm grip of his own and that’s all he needs. The Yokozuna keeps it simple and squashes Tamawashi at the edge of the ring, winning by yoritaoshi (front crush out). Tamawashi has a fine record of 9-4, and Hakuho stays perfect at 13-0. The only way Hakuho loses the tournament is if he loses both remaining bouts against Terunofuji and Harumafuji, and then a playoff against Harumafuji and/or either Takayasu or Terunofuji (both of whom can’t finish with only two losses, since they’ll likely face each other on the last day). Things are looking good for Hakuho’s 38th top-division title.
Somehow I doubt Yokozuna Hakuho bothers with watching tape of his upcoming opponents, but Tochiozan lost yesterday in almost identical fashion. Hakuho puts his left hand in Tochiozan’s face as a distraction, to block Tochiozan’s vision from the big right shoulder that follows. Tochiozan survives the blow and hangs in there until Hakuho slaps down and drives him into the clay by hatakikomi. Still perfect at 12-0 and in sole possession of the tournament lead, a win by Hakuho tomorrow will eliminate all but five wrestlers from championship contention: Yokozuna Hakuho (12-0), Yokozuna Harumafuji (11-1), Ozeki Terunofuji, Sekiwake Takayasu, and M10 Ura (all 10-2). Harumafuji’s Day 12 bout was a no-contest victory over Takanoiwa, who had to drop out due to injury.
Ozeki Goeido hasn’t defeated Yokozuna Hakuho in two years. But with the championship in his sights, Hakuho isn’t even thinking about that streak – Goeido is just another wrestler in his way. Reaching for the underarm right-handed grip, Goeido gives up the overarm left too easily to Hakuho. Hakuho is really good at shifting his hips from this position to prevent the opponent from latching on. Goeido does manage to tie up Hakuho’s right arm, but while he’s occupied with that activity Hakuho catches him leaning too far to the right while grasping for the front of Hakuho’s belt. Twisting downwards with his left arm, Hakuho rolls Goeido to the clay with a nice uwatehineri (twisting overarm throw). The Yokozuna stays perfect at 11-0, now in sole possession of the tournament lead. Goeido finishes at 6-5, still needing two wins in the last four days to avoid demotion from the Ozeki rank.
This is the first bout of the tournament with real championship implications, with Yokozuna Hakuho trying to knock Takayasu down the ladder and two losses out of contention. But Takayasu doesn’t go down easily, putting up a real fight and turning in an admirable performance against the mighty Hakuho. Hakuho is having a legitimately hard time moving Takayasu around, especially after Takayasu breaks the Yokozuna’s right-handed underarm grip, but he gets his posture nice and low with his head in Takayasu’s chest. Giving up on regaining the right-hand grip, Hakuho seizes his chance and charges forward, bullrushing Takayasu out of the ring where both men crash to the floor. Hakuho stays perfect at 10-0, tied with fellow Yokozuna Harumafuji, and Takayasu falls to 8-2, tied with Terunofuji, Shodai, Tochinoshin, and Ura. Five more wrestlers are still in the hunt at 7-3. Five days to go!