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!
There’s some speculation that something is physically wrong with Yokozuna Kakuryu, but it’s honestly hard to tell against the fury of Takayasu. The Ozeki is a churning hive of activity, like thousands of bees clumped together into a 360lb dynamo. Kakuryu tries his best, though, a last-gasp push on Takayasu’s throat serving merely to anger the bees further. Takayasu launches Kakuryu off the dohyo for his eleventh win. All of this is academic however, as Tochinoshin has already clinched the championship.
That’s three losses in a row for Yokozuna Kakuryu, who gets manhandled by Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi picks up his all-important eighth win by returning to an aggressive style of sumo that seemed to have deserted him in recent days. Kakuryu is now tied for second place at 10-3 with Takayasu, and only the slim hope of back-to-back Tochinoshin losses can help either one of them have a chance at a playoff.
Yokozuna Kakuryu has caught the same virus afflicting Mitakeumi and Goeido, completely forgetting how to attack and hoping his opponent will magically fall to the ground. Endo does not oblige. Once the danger of the tachiai is over, Endo accepts Kakuryu’s invitation to push him out of the ring, taking a few solid steps and keeping his feet underneath him to foil Kakuryu’s misguided efforts at a technique. Endo improves to 7-5, while Kakuryu falls to 10-2 and leaves the leaderboard looking like this: Tochinoshin (11-1), Kakuryu (10-2), Takayasu (9-3). Things are looking good for Tochinoshin’s first ever top-division championship, but he’s got Ichinojo in his way tomorrow. Things are far from over.
It’s not too surprising that Kakuryu loses a bout. He’s only ever had one perfect tournament, a 7-0 championship in the Sandanme division way back in 2004. But I didn’t expect Tamawashi to be the one to knock him down this time. It’s hard to say exactly what goes wrong, but pulling down on Tamawashi’s head and basically inviting him to continue his attack closer to the edge of the ring was probably not a good idea. Kakuryu just misses the straw with his right foot, stepping out when a good foothold might have given him a chance to fight back. So the tournament leaderboard looks like this: Yokozuna Kakuryu and M3 Tochinoshin are tied at 10-1. Nobody is within one loss at 9-2. At 8-3 are Ozeki Takayasu and M13 Daieisho. Mathematically still in it at 7-4 are a host of ten wrestlers, but I don’t think either Kakuryu or Tochinoshin will suffer a collapse like that in the last four days.
Okinoumi’s wondering why he even got out of bed this morning. Yokozuna Kakuryu has his way with the hapless wrestler, slinging him around with a right-side belt grip and showing him the exit in short order. Winning technique is okuridashi (rear push out). Kakuryu stays perfect at 10-0, the sole leader of the tournament in front of Tochinoshin (9-1), Daieisho (8-2), and Takayasu, Mitakeumi, and Takarafuji (7-3).