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).
I love bouts on the last day between two 7-7 wrestlers. Both have to give it their all to avoid demotion, and there’s nothing like a potential drop in rank and a pay cut for motivation. Takarafuji and Kotoshogiku do not disappoint with their efforts, but it’s Takarafuji who overcomes Kotoshogiku’s variety of defensive techniques to pick up his kachi-koshi (eight wins or better). ‘Giku tries a huge shoulder slam at the tachiai, diverting Takarafuji to the side. He tries a left-side sukuinage (beltless arm throw). He tries his patented gaburi-yori (belly bump), followed quickly by a smooth triple-combo sukuinage into head pull into kotenage (arm lock throw). But Takarafuji hangs in there until the very end, and walks an exhausted Kotoshogiku over the straw. Takarafuji makes his way back to his side of the ring, breathing deeply himself, one last all-important win under his belt.
The schedule makers have no mercy on M14 Abi, giving him a huge jump in opponent skill level on Day 14. He faces Kotoshogiku, who at M2 is the highest-ranked wrestler Abi’s ever fought. And it shows. Kotoshogiku picks up his seventh win in fine fashion, surviving Abi’s early onslaught to take control and show the youngster how it’s done. At 7-7, Kotoshogiku will be eager to win on the last day and avoid demotion. Abi, at 9-5, will be looking to pad his already impressive record.
Good matchup between two fan favorites, with Endo coming out on top to pick up his kachi-koshi. He sticks with the right-handed underarm belt grip despite Kotoshogiku’s immense efforts to break the hold, surviving a strong arm lock and a couple of good throw attempts. Kotoshogiku will have to win the last two days to avoid demotion.
Another make-koshi earned by a high-ranked wrestler today, as Takakeisho falls to former Ozeki Kotoshogiku. It’s a great performance by ‘Giku, who hangs in at the edge of the ring before fighting back hard to retake position in the center. He grabs Takakeisho’s head in this exchange, and it looks like he gets a handle on Takakeisho’s top knot. But since it appears to be inadvertent, and he lets go quickly, and it doesn’t in fact improve his position, the judges don’t call the foul. Bumping Takakeisho back to the straw bales, Kotoshogiku reaches down and grabs the back of Takakeisho’s thigh to sweep his leg out from underneath him and win by watashikomi (thigh grabbing push down). Takakeisho gets up tugging on his hair, a less-than-subtle appeal to the judges, which is about as much complaining as you’re going to get in sumo.
Tochinoshin has little trouble disposing of Kotoshogiku to earn his ninth win of the tournament. It’s only the sixth time he’s defeated the former Ozeki in thirty head-to-head bouts, but he’s looking incredible this tournament. Each win keeps him one behind the tournament leader Kakuryu, and he’s just waiting for the Yokozuna to stumble. Kotoshogiku is struggling at 4-6.
Kotoshogiku is slowly working his way back to a winning record, but he needs all his energy to come back from the edge of the ring against Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze has a great tachiai and backs up Kotoshogiku to the straw, where Kotoshogiku digs deep and uses a right-side arm lock to send the action back the other way. Now at the far edge ‘Giku doesn’t let up, using his patented belly bumps to finish the job. Yoshikaze falls to 3-6, Kotoshogiku improves to 4-5.