Unbeaten yokozuna Harumafuji scratched one potential threat off his list on Jan. 25 at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, as sekiwake Baruto also saw his last chance to return to his former ozeki rank slip through his grasp with a disappointing loss.
Harumafuji's win in Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan leaves rival Hakuho and lowly rank-and-filer Takayasu as the only ones remaining who can challenge him for the first title of 2013.
Hakuho managed to keep the tournament interesting by taking Kakuryu out very convincingly. The yokozuna was simply too powerful for his ozeki compatriot and had him staggering after a few blows. Hakuho has two losses so he needed the win to stay in the running.
In the showdown of the day, Harumafuji outmaneuvered Kisenosato, taking his initial attack in stride and moving to the side while backing up and yanking the ozeki off balance from the back of the neck. The loss eliminates Kisenosato from the championship race, since it's his third.
Bolstered by his big win the day before over Hakuho, Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu threw No. 6 maegashira Tochinoshin onto his back. It was probably Kotooshu's best-executed move yet and raises him to 8-5, which is also Tochinoshin's tally.
At the other end of the scale, Kotoshogiku fell to another defeat as Tochiozan (7-6) tossed him onto his ample belly. After a great start, Kotoshogiku has lost steam and now stands at 6-7, with four defeats in a row. He has to win his remaining bouts or he will face demotion if he fares badly the next time out.
Sekiwake Goeido moved back into winning territory, claiming his seventh victory, over No. 4 maegashira Aran. Though he hasn't quite risen to the occasion, the ozeki hopeful won with an arm-pulling move, or "hikkake,'' after Aran let his thrusting attack get out of control. Aran is 6-7.
Sekiwake Baruto lost a big one to No. 7 maegashira Takayasu, falling to 7-6, meaning he will not be able to get the 10 wins he needs to return as an ozeki in March. Though the big Estonian tried a throw at the edge, he was already moving backward and his foot touched out before Takayasu, who has an outstanding 11 wins, hit the dirt. Baruto's decline is all the more disappointing because he was one of the better ozeki, but he has not been himself because of leg injuries, which are still clearly hindering his abilities in the ring.
Komusubi Shohozan took another beating, this time at the hands of No. 2 maegashira Toyonoshima, who pummeled him with thrusts and sent him out to his 11th loss. Toyonoshima isn't having a good tournament either, however, and with eight losses will go home after the final day a loser.
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