Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku hasn’t had double-digit wins in over a year, but he puts it all together this tournament to finish an impressive 10-5. It was only January of last year (seems like ages, though) that he won the championship at 14-1, but two tournaments later he dropped out due to injury and has endured a precipitous decline since then. Nice to see him back in fighting shape. Takarafuji puts up some tough resistance, but ‘Giku keeps his feet under him until he finds an opening for the slick kotenage (arm lock throw). Takarafuji has a fine tournament as well, finishing at 9-6.
Takarafuji has no answer for Takakeisho today, letting himself get pushed around the ring with only token lateral movement to try and get off the line of the attack. A lackluster performance from the usually stalwart Takarafuji, but Takakeisho stays focused and doesn’t screw it up. Both men finish the day at 7-4, still mathematically (if not realistically) in the title hunt only three losses behind tournament leader Goeido with four days remaining.
Favorite bout of the tournament so far. Ishiura ends up behind Takarafuji and a wild scramble ensues, with Takarafuji trying to spin around and get the little guy back in front of him and Ishiura trying to hold onto any part of Takarafuji’s belt to stay behind him. After a few rotations Takarafuji finally catches Ishiura, and throws him out of the ring by his face. Takarafuji improves to 7-3, while Ishiura earns his makekoshi (losing record) and demotion next tournament.
Takarafuji works the right-left magic again today, pulling with a right arm overhand grip to get Nishikigi leaning one way and then pushing with his left arm to send Nishikigi tumbling the other direction. Good solid core from Takarafuji gives his shoves a lot of strength, even going backwards.
Chiyoshoma bounces off Takarafuji at the tachiai but manages to grab a left-handed underarm belt grip and fight back from the edge of the ring. Withering under Takarafuji’s relentless pressure, he tries a last-gasp underarm throw from the left side. But Takarafuji doesn’t budge and Chiyoshoma’s torso is tilted over from his own efforts, so Takarafuji says “thank you very much” and completes an overarm throw from the same side.
Arawashi beats Takarafuji for the first time in five meetings with a nice tottari (arm bar throw). When Takarafuji reaches under with his left arm, Arawashi circles around and twists hard, jumping out of the way at the last second. The pressure on his shoulder and elbow is enough to drop Takarafuji to the clay.
Ishiura’s hopes of a winning record and promotion stay alive, and he’ll move into the last day with a record of 7-7. Fighting off the larger Takarafuji at the edge of the ring, Ishiura gets a left hand around to the back of Takarafuji’s belt, swinging sideways and turning that circular momentum into a smooth underarm throw. Ishiura plants his feet in a wide stance, and you can watch the power flow through his hips all the way to his arm as he tosses Takarafuji down to his eleventh loss.