Kisenosato wins the January 2017 Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, earning his first top-division championship with a record of 14-1. Over the course of fourteen wins he used six different kimarite (winning techniques): yorikiri (7), tsukiotoshi (2), oshidashi (1), kimedashi (1), kotenage (1), and sukuinage (1), with one win coming by fusensho (no contest).
Kisenosato caps off his first-ever tournament championship with a victory over Yokozuna Hakuho, finishing with a spectacular 14-1 record. Hakuho looks overaggressive and out of control, for him, pushing as hard as he can but also leaning waaaay too far forward. Kisenosato, desperate at the edge of the ring, does the only thing he can and manages to slip sideways with a left-handed sukuinage (beltless arm throw). Hakuho rolls to the floor. The crowd goes wild. Pillows take flight. Kisenosato gets a massive stack of cash. Congratulations, Kisenosato!!!
Two sad Ozeki on the last day of the tournament. Terunofuji goes back on kadoban status with a 4-11 record, meaning he’ll get one more chance at a winning record next tournament to keep his Ozeki rank. Kotoshogiku was kadoban this tournament, so his 5-10 record means he gets demoted from the Ozeki rank he’s held since November of 2011. Normally, a promotion to Ozeki requires thirty-three wins in three consecutive tournaments from the Komusubi or Sekiwake ranks, but a freshly demoted Ozeki gets a special deal. Next tournament Kotoshogiku will be Sekiwake, but if he puts up at least ten wins he can regain his Ozeki rank immediately. His victory over Terunofuji on the last day of this tournament is small consolation, and I bet he’d trade that huge stack of cash for an 8-7 record in an instant.
Nothing to see here but a master class in sumo fundamentals. Takarafuji finishes the tournament with a disappointing 6-9 record, but his solid style of sumo will keep him in the upper half of the top division for a while yet. He’s a little weak on the tachiai, but after that he takes over. Once he gets a hand on Myogiryu’s belt he’s in total control of Myogiryu’s hips. Notice how he positions himself at the edge of the ring, feet wide and hips low, shifting slightly side to side when necessary, but every move cutting off escape and inching closer to the straw. Myogiryu is smothered and has nowhere to go but out.
Chiyonokuni, you gotta sacrifice the body! After a good back-and-forth bout both men end up at the edge of the ring, Chiyonokuni with a right-handed overarm belt grip and Mitakeumi with his left arm underneath. They both throw at the same time, and Chiyonokuni does a great job getting his right leg underneath Mitakeumi’s left, lifting up for added leverage. But Mitakeumi is flexible, and stretches that leg out while pushing hard with his left arm. They both topple over at about the same time, but Chiyonokuni loses when he puts his hand out to break his fall. Chiyonokuni, you see how Mitakeumi tucked his free arm up so it wouldn’t touch the ground? Do that next time. With an outstanding 11-4 record, M1 Mitakeumi is headed back up to the sanyaku ranks in March. Chiyonokuni finishes with a solid 9-6 record.
I wish I had the time, bandwith, and resources to put up more of the pre-bout ritual stuff. To me, it adds so much to the match itself when you can watch the two wrestlers go back and forth, facing off, staring each other down, going back for more salt and a rubdown, getting themselves either calmed down or pumped up depending on their personality. The tension builds over three or four minutes, culminating in one of the great moments in sports – the tachiai, or initial charge. The referee gives a loud “Matta nashi!” (No false starts!), and he tells them to put their hands down, “Te wo tsuite!” And now they have to launch together, no starting gun or signal to set them off. Either Shohozan jumps early or Ishiura waits too long, one or the other, but the ref calls them back to do it right. And this time their timing is aligned. Ishiura ducks low and to his left, going for a leg and causing Shohozan to miss with his head slap. But Shohozan turns quickly and uses an arm bar to stand up Ishiura before shoving him hard at the edge of the ring, sending him literally flying into the air and down to the ground below. Ishiura is slow to get up, with ring judge and former Ozeki Chiyotaikai showing concern, but it looks like he’s ok. Both men finish with losing records.
Aoiyama pushes Arawashi around the ring in total control of the bout until Arawashi grabs his arm and pulls him to the ground for the hikkake (arm grabbing force out) win. Aoiyama finishes the tournament at 8-7, and Arawashi will probably fall from M2 to the middle of the division with a 6-9 record.