Setting up a three-way showdown that could bring Japan its first championship in years, rank-and-file wrestlers Kyokutenho and Tochiozan tossed their ozeki opponents to the dirt Saturday to go into the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament tied for the lead with Kisenosato at 11-3.
Though Kyokutenho is Mongolian, Tochiozan and Kisenosato are both Japanese, and they are both on fire.
Kisenosato blasted through Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji (7-7) like it was nothing to claim his victory and cement his position as the favorite to take home the championship. He had the advantage from the start, and drove and thrust his way top safety as Harumafuji--normally a tough opponent--found himself virtually helpless.
On Sunday, Kisenosato fights ozeki Baruto, who was sent out to his sixth loss by yokozuna Hakuho. Hakuho has four losses and a broken finger that has slowed him down, and unless all three leaders hit the dirt Sunday, he cannot take the title this time.
In an exciting upset, co-leader Tochiozan, a maegashira No. 4, completely overwhelmed new ozeki Kakuryu with a solid forward drive that he followed up with by a quick retreat that put the Mongolian off balance and vulnerable to a pull-down move, which Tochiozan executed nicely.
Tochiozan fights Kotooshu on the final day. His only losses thus far are to Gagamaru, Toyonoshima and Kyokutenho.
"I had a good face off and that helped," he said. "I was up against an ozeki, so I needed to do my best. I was glad to be able to do that."
Not to be outdone, No. 7 maegashira Kyokutenho continued to show his stuff with a big throw that sent ozeki Kotooshu off his feet and into the spectators below the ring. The 37-year-old Mongolian was clearly fired up for the bout and launched right out at the Bulgarian, lunging for the belt and then unleashing the winning throw.
This is the first time the 20-year sumo veteran has ever had a shot at a title going into the final day. He squares of with Goeido in his closer.
"I'm trying not to think too much, but it's hard," he said.
Kotoshogiku kept the pressure on sekiwake Toyonoshima until he had the match wrapped up. The ozeki used his considerable grappling skills to dominate the sekiwake, and lifts his wins to nine. Toyonoshima is 6-8.
Sekiwake Goeido got his crucial eighth win by tripping up komusubi Aminishiki (7-7), who has been outstanding against the top echelons but not so stellar against his peers. Goeido had the advantage on the belt and drove Aminishiki to the edge, then toppled the komusubi with a sweep of his right leg that sent him plunging to the ground.
Downward-headed komusubi Homasho, after putting in his first two-win run, lost his 11th bout as No. 3 maegashira Takekaze straightened him up with a throat shot and a determined series of thrusts. Despite a good showing in the second half, Takekaze is 6-8, having lost all but one of his matches in the first eight days.
Maegashira wrestlers Okinoumi and Aioyama are also at 10-4, meaning they have an outside shot as well.
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