SUMO/ Kakuryu wins first title and likely promotion to yokozuna

March 23, 2014

AJW

Ozeki Kakuryu handily won his final match and his first championship title at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka on March 23, putting him in line for promotion to yokozuna.

He is expected to join Mongolian compatriots Hakuho and Harumafuji at the top of the sumo pyramid come May.

One of the keys to Kakuryu’s recent success has been his face-off--calm and focused. Against Kotoshogiku, Kakuryu put that new attack on display, absorbing his opponent’s onslaught and keeping his cool as the ozeki wiggled in for the belt. With his head down and his feet moving, Kakuryu took the best the injured Kotoshogiku (8-7) could offer and drove him over the edge in a fine display of talent and strength.

“I have finally won. I’m so happy,” Kakuryu said. “I will do my best.”

Kakuryu’s only loss was to Okinoumi on the third day of the tournament, and he defeated both yokozuna on his way to the title. He also came close to winning the championship in January, losing only to Hakuho. Sumo association officials indicated that Kakuryu is likely to be formally installed as yokozuna when the promotion committee has its next meeting.

“All I wanted was to go all the way through the end,” Kakuryu said. “My experience over the years is starting to bring results.”

Though neither had a chance of winning the title, Hakuho and Harumafuji had a hard-fought and evenly matched bout to close out the tournament. After grappling to the edge, Harumafuji launched a throw that had both wrestlers airborne.

Harumafuji was ruled the winner by the referee, but the judges called a huddle after watching the video of the match, which showed Harumafuji’s hand touching out first.

They called a rematch, which Harumafuji won easily. Hakuho, knowing he had no chance of getting his 29th title, didn’t seem to have it in him to fight twice just to be second best. The yokozuna duo both finished at 12-3.

In other final-day action, local favorite sekiwake Goeido used an aggressive face-off to topple ozeki Kisenosato and seal his 12th win of the tournament. Goeido, a perennial at sekiwake, has been fighting a much more powerful and offense-oriented style than normal, and it is paying off greatly for him. With his finish in Osaka, he can now start a run for promotion, but he has to perform well again in May.

Kisenosato had nine wins.

Sekiwake Tochiozan, who will be retaining his rank in May, plunged forward and fell on his belly, but only after No. 7 maegashira Chiyotairyu had stepped out of the ring in an effort to keep from being completely knocked over. Tochiozan garnered nine wins, and Chiyotairyu also closed with a 9-6 record.

Losing his 10th bout, komusubi Toyonoshima was unable to budge No. 5 maegashira Chiyootori, a very hefty up-and-comer, and was pushed out before he could retaliate.

Komusubi Shohozan lost his final bout and goes home a loser, also at 5-10. Top maegashira Tamawashi, who also only managed five wins, broke down Shohozan’s defenses and thrust him out.

Shohozan and Toyonoshima can both expect a demotion back into the rank and file in May.

Top maegashira Endo fell onto his back after a tough thrusting match with No. 4 maegashira Yoshikaze, who won 10 matches and can claim the fighting spirit award for his effort.

Yoshikaze suffered a blow to his eye in an earlier match, and it was swollen almost completely shut. But he said that didn’t bother him.

“Everybody has pain to deal with,” he said, laughing.

Endo still has a bright future ahead of him, but his inexperience showed in this tournament as he is trying to recalibrate his skills against more senior wrestlers than he had been previously pitted against. He had to settle for a 6-9 record.

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Ozeki Kakuryu goes back to his dressing room after defeating ozeki Kotoshogiku and winning the title on Day 15 of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on March 23. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

Ozeki Kakuryu goes back to his dressing room after defeating ozeki Kotoshogiku and winning the title on Day 15 of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on March 23. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

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  • Ozeki Kakuryu goes back to his dressing room after defeating ozeki Kotoshogiku and winning the title on Day 15 of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on March 23. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)
  • Yokozuha Harumafuji easily defeats yokozuna Hakuho in a rematch on Day 15 of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on March 23. (Mari Endo)

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