While denied a chance to clinch the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament a day early, yokozuna Hakuho easily disposed of the previous tournament champion to keep his fate in his own hands.
Hakuho threw down ozeki Kotoshogiku in the final bout Saturday at Edion Arena in Osaka to improve to 13-1 and take a one-win lead into today’s final day ahead of the ozeki pair of Goeido and Kisenosato, who both won earlier to keep their hopes of a first-ever ma- kuuchi division title alive.
Hakuho can clinch the title outright with a victory over fellow yokozuna Harumafuji, with whom he has a 31-20 career record. A loss will send him to a playoff with the winner of the match between Goeido and Kisenosato, who are both 12-2.
Kotoshogiku had started the tournament entertaining hopes of promotion to yokozuna, but instead can only finish with nine wins at best.
Kisenosato, who had been undefeated through 10 days, remained in the running with a solid win over ozeki Terunofuji (8-6) — after the two finally got down to business following two false starts.
Goeido, the first of the four ozeki in action, extended the title chase by defeating No. 4 maegashira Ikioi.
Ikioi, who had started the tournament with seven straight wins, came out firing, but got a bit overextended and a backpedaling Goeido pressed down on his neck to send the maegashira to the dirt and his fourth loss.
Regardless of what happens, Goeido has put on an impressive showing given that he came into the tournament as a kadoban ozeki and needed a majority of wins to retain his rank. He has well exceeded that bar.
In a battle for pride between the other two yokozuna, Kakuryu gained a belt hold and forced out Harumafuji, leaving both wrestlers at 9-5.
While the ozeki contingent has stepped up this tournament and been in the thick of the title chase, all four wrestlers in the two other sanyaku ranks — sekiwake and komusubi — face demotion after having already been assured of makekoshi losing records.
Both sekiwake were left with 3-11 records after being shoved out of the ring, Yoshikaze falling to No. 2 maegashira Tochinoshin and Toyonoshima losing to the other No. 2 maegashira, Okinoumi, who improved to 7-7.