Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho came from behind to win the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament and his 22nd career championship on March 25 in a hard-fought tie-breaker over sekiwake Kakuryu.
Hakuho blasted off at the face-off and drove his junior compatriot to the edge. Kakuryu fought back with great determination, but Hakuho dug in again and threw him to the dirt, making up for his loss to Kakuryu on the ninth day of the tournament.
“I wasn't sure how it would turn out,” Hakuho said, adding that an old injury was bothering him. “I lost to him in the regular match earlier, so I wanted to win this time.”
Hakuho is now tied with former yokozuna Takanohana on 22 titles, the fifth best record in history.
“It's an honor to be up with Takanohana,” Hakuho said. “He was a great wrestler.”
Kakuryu, who will be promoted to ozeki next time out, could have sealed his first title by defeating Goeido, a maegashira No. 6, in his regular bout. He had only one loss going in, but Goeido also had some momentum behind him, with 11 wins under his belt.
When he launched out at Kakuryu, his confidence showed. Kakuryu completely faded at the face-off. While the Osaka crowd roared, Goeido slammed into him and drove him in a straight line backward and out of the ring.
“The match went just as I planned,” Goeido said. “I hope this will mean better things are ahead.”
Never one to let an opportunity go to waste, Hakuho, whose other loss was to Kisenosato, then came out and demolished Baruto, who, as defending champion, was in line for a possible promotion to yokozuna until he fell apart in the tournament's homestretch. Baruto finished at 10-5, not a record that will open the door grand champion status.
Mongolian veteran Harumafuji put in the best record of the ozeki, tossing Kotooshu to the dirt to wrap it up at 11-4. Kotooshu was 8-7. Harumafuji is probably the most talented of the ozeki wrestlers pound for pound, although he was beaten by Baruto, and also gave up a painful loss to Yoshikaze, an opponent he should have bettered easily. Kotooshu again just barely held his own, although his win over Baruto on Day 11 was a turning point in the championship race.
In a battle of the newest ozeki, Kotoshogiku thrust down Kisenosato, meaning they both end the tournament with 9-6 records. Neither wrestler was able to show their real capabilities, and both dropped from the title race early on. Kisenosato, in particular, had a tough start, and was never really able to recover.
Sekiwake Aminishiki pushed Russia's Aran over the edge, but still only managed to garner seven wins this tournament. Aran goes home with nine wins, which should give him a lift in the rankings. He has experience as a sekiwake, and could become more of a factor in future tournaments if he can fight at his own pace.
Closing on a good note, Georgia's Gagamaru used his ample weight advantage to drive out Kyokutenho (5-10) for his sixth win in his debut at komusubi. Wakakoyu sent the other komusubi, Tochiozan, out for his 10th loss. Tochiozan had defeated Kisenosato, Kotooshu and Aminishiki early in the tournament, but then lost his groove and fell to losses in seven of the next eight days.
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