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).
Lesson for the day: Do not get in a contest of strength with Tochinoshin. The dude is rock-solid. Ichinojo exhibits a display of his own power, lifting Tochinoshin clear off the ground, but he can’t finish the move and all he succeeds in doing is pissing off Tochinoshin. As soon as his feet are back on the ground Tochinoshin turns on the jets and marches Ichinojo out of the ring. Tochinoshin finishes the tournament at 10-5 and wins the Shukun-sho prize for Outstanding Performance, usually awarded to a wrestler who beats the tournament champion. Currently ranked at Sekiwake, a good run over the next two tournaments could put him in contention for Ozeki promotion.
Chiyomaru, dude, that’s a battle you’re not going to win. You had a shot for the first half-second of the bout before Tochinoshin got a hold of your belt, but then . . . Thanks for showing up.
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.)
Takayasu’s strong tachiai knocks Tochinoshin back off his line, and Tochinoshin is forced to grab Takayasu’s arm and try to circle away from the edge. But Takayasu turns on a dime, following Tochinoshin around and pushing him out just as Tochinoshin pulls down on the back of Takayasu’s head and drives him into the dirt. The judges get up to talk about it, and confirm the referee’s decision in favor of Takayasu. They weren’t sure that the two didn’t go out/down at the same time (or Takayasu a bit first), but it turns out that Tochinoshin’s heel stepped over the edge at the end of Takayasu’s initial charge. Takayasu has sole possession of third place at 9-2. Tochinoshin falls to 7-4.
Oh, the henka. Touchy subject. The sideways jump that avoids all contact at the tachiai and can lead to an easy win over an unsuspecting opponent, at the cost of some pride at not giving a fair fight. Usually forgiven when executed by smaller wrestlers on occasion, but generally frowned upon by the sumo elders. Definitely frowned upon when used by upper-ranked wrestlers. Absolutely poo-pooed when performed by an Ozeki or Yokozuna. But often highly entertaining, especially in the charged environment of a live arena. Actually hard to precisely define, exactly. But Goeido, today . . . this is a henka. Unabashed. No bueno.
“Hello, Shohozan. Please meet my left forearm. You two get acquainted for a minute until I introduce you to your fourth loss.”