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).
Having wrapped up the tournament on the previous day, Yokozuna Kakuryu provides us with a last bit of entertainment in the final bout of the tournament. He meets Ozeki Takayasu in the center of the ring and immediately falls victim to Takayasu’s powerful tachiai. Kakuryu tries for a few moments to push back against the furious Ozeki, but soon resorts to pulling on his head and running backwards. Takayasu follows and launches forward, pushing Kakuryu right to the edge of the ring but falling down in the process. The judges want to talk about the ref’s decision in favor of Kakuryu, and a lengthy conference ensues. After much discussion, the announcement is made: Kakuryu’s heel touched out at the same time that Takayasu hit the dirt, so let’s have a rematch! The do-over starts much the same way as the first time around, with Takayasu knocking Kakuryu back off his line. The difference this time is that Takayasu doesn’t fall down. He bulls Kakuryu around the ring and keeps his feet under him, being extra careful to stop his momentum at the ring’s edge to send Kakuryu packing without ever being in danger himself. Takayasu finishes with a record of 12-3, runner-up for the second consecutive tournament. Kakuryu wins his fourth-ever championship with a record of 13-2.
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.
Because the severity of your demotion depends on how far under .500 you finish, every win counts even after you’ve dropped eight losses. Veteran Kotoshogiku understands this and fights like mad to stay in, borrowing a page from newbie Ryuden’s book to plant his heels on the straw bales and refuse to be pushed out. The crowd appreciates the effort and roars in approval when Kotoshogiku recovers from a strong nodowa (throat push) to reset in the center, finding a left-handed underarm belt grip to give him enough leverage to push Hokutofuji the length of the dohyo and out the other side. Both men finish the tournament at 6-9.
Sometimes a 7-7 record sparks a great performance, sometimes it’s not enough to overcome a 90-pound weight difference. Ishiura admirably dives into the belly (literally) of the beast, but Kagayaki handles the smaller wrestler nicely, keeping Ishiura in front of him and working quickly towards the edge. Ishiura misses the tawara with his foot and slides out of the ring. Both wrestlers finish the tournament at 7-8.
Few things more desperate than a sumo wrestler on the last day of the tournament with a 7-7 record, needing that last win for promotion, career advancement, glory, salary, bonuses, all that jazz. And Ryuden guts it out, refusing to go over the edge despite Asanoyama’s best efforts. Asanoyama burns out and has nothing left when Ryuden turns the tables after a particularly nice one-footed save, and Ryuden gets the yorikiri (front force out) win for his kachi-koshi (winning record) of 8-7. Asanoyama also finishes the tournament at 8-7.
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.