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.
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 one’s a bit anticlimactic for a bout between the two tournament leaders, but Kaisei has never had any success against Yokozuna Kakuryu. Losing eleven straight against Kakuryu going into today’s bout, Kaisei adds to his loss tally by standing up and immediately falling down, victim to Kakuryu’s quick jump backwards and strong slap to the back of Kaisei’s head. Kakuryu sits alone atop the leaderboard at 12-1, with the only possible challengers two losses back at 10-3. Ozeki Takayasu, M6 Kaisei, and M14 Ikioi have a shot only if Kakuryu loses the last two days to Takayasu and Goeido.
Although his chances at another title are very slim, Tochinoshin wants to beat Yokozuna Kakuryu if only to avenge his only loss of last tournament. And boy, does that seem to motivate him. The tachiai is even. The belt grips are even. The ring position is even. It seems like the only difference is how red Tochinoshin’s body gets with the sheer effort of out-muscling the Yokozuna. Tochinoshin, through immense force of will and grunting like a cave troll, walks Kakuryu towards the edge and over. (Side note: before this bout, Kakuryu had beaten Tochinoshin twenty-one times against only one loss. Tochinoshin beats Kakuryu today for the first time in seven years. That’s motivated.) Now for the math. At 11-1, Kakuryu is still the sole leader of the tournament due to Kaisei’s loss. Kaisei is in second place at 10-2. Still with a decent shot are both Ozekis Takayasu and Goeido, as well as Daishomaru and Ikioi at 9-3. Much less of a chance but still technically possible is the group of four wrestlers at 8-4, including Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin would need Kakuryu to lose four days in a row, including today, to have a shot. That’s never happened to Kakuryu as Yokozuna, has it? (It happened last tournament.)
Things look dire for a moment for Kakuryu when Ichinojo reaches over his back to grab the left-handed overarm grip, adding to the underarm grip Ichinojo’s already got on the right side. But Kakuryu has two belt grips of his own and keeps his head buried in Ichinojo’s chest, showing great strength to out-muscle his giant opponent, walking him over the edge for the yorikiri (front force out) victory. Kakuryu stays perfect at 11-0, one win ahead of Kaisei (who won today by default due to a Takakeisho injury withdrawal) and two wins ahead of Takayasu. Ichinojo falls to 8-3, tied for fourth place with five other wrestlers who still have a mathematical shot at the title.
Yokozuna Kakuryu takes on the wrestler with the highest width-to-height ratio in the top division, Chiyomaru, and somehow reaches around that belly for a belt grip. From there it’s easy sailing and Kakuryu takes sole lead of the tournament at 10-0. Kaisei is alone in second place at 9-1, and the two-loss bunch in third place has really thinned with only two wrestlers remaining: Ozeki Takayasu and Komusubi Ichinojo.