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.
Ichinojo goes back on beast mode after his loss to Tochinoshin yesterday, rolling Takarafuji with a good shitatedashinage (pulling underarm throw). Takarafuji falls to 7-7, and Ichinojo improves to 9-5.
Ryuden joins Abi as another top-division first-timer to pick up nine wins. He goes for the belt against Takarafuji, and once his right hand latches on there’s nothing Takarafuji can do to dislodge it. Takarafuji has both arms clasped around Ryuden’s wrist, applying extreme pressure to the joint, but Ryuden’s grip strength is immense. Great display of belt work from Ryuden.
Great bout with a lot on the line for Tochinoshin, wanting to protect his one-loss record and probably not expecting Takarafuji to give him so much trouble. But Takarafuji is built like Tochinoshin with a solid core and strong legs, and the similarity results in an entertaining back-and-forth battle. Tochinoshin spends the first half of the bout trying to get inside and grab Takarafuji’s belt, but Takarafuji keeps his torso long and his belt out of reach. A few times Tochinoshin tries to soften up Takarafuji with a slap to the face, but Takarafuji’s head is attached to his spine with a tree trunk, and he doesn’t even blink. Then Takarafuji diverts Tochinoshin off to the side with a nicely timed shove and follows up immediately, putting his head in Tochinoshin’s chest to try and push him out. But Tochinoshin slides just enough to the right, getting a hand on the back of Takarafuji’s head and pushing him to the clay just a moment before Tochinoshin’s feet go out. It’s close. The judges and referee have a discussion and Tochinoshin gets the win.
Takarafuji emerges from the tachiai with the advantage, securing a left-handed underarm belt grip that keeps Kaisei’s right arm elevated, and clamping down nicely on Kaisei’s left arm, preventing Kaisei from getting his own underarm grip on that side. Both men reach out for the right-handed overarm grip at the same time, breaking the stalemate, and Takarafuji loses his underarm grip. But he works his way around to a nearly identical grappling position, this time with the overarm grip on the right side and a left arm high underneath Kaisei’s armpit. When he uses the overarm grip to try and muscle out Kaisei, Kaisei strains to defend at the edge of the ring, and Hokutofuji feels him leaning. So Hokutofuji lets go of the overarm grip and commits to the left-side sukuinage (beltless arm throw), rolling Kaisei to his fourth loss. Hokutofuji improves to 7-3.
I love watching Takarafuji when he’s on his game. No fancy business, just solid footwork and a strong back. He finishes off Arawashi at the edge of the ring with a left forearm to the chin followed by a right shove to the throat that sends Arawashi out.