New yokozuna Terunofuji overcame a tricky opponent in No. 3 maegashira Wakatakakage to keep his record perfect Friday and take the sole lead after six days at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.
Nimble rank-and-filer Wakatakakage (3-3) got out of a tight spot near the edge before getting himself in a promising position by placing his head on Terunofuji’s chest.
But the yokozuna’s physicality halted the charge, while his long reach prevented Wakatakakage from getting a belt hold. Terunofuji instead locked up both of his opponent’s arms and forced him over the straw in a suffocating manner.
Terunofuji is the title favorite here in the absence of yokozuna Hakuho, the record 45-time champion who is missing the meet after two coronavirus cases were reported at his stable.
Winning a fifth championship, and his first as yokozuna, would add to an already remarkable career for the Mongolian-born Terunofuji, whose knee injuries and other health issues saw him drop from the second-highest rank of ozeki to the fifth-tier jonidan division before an unprecedented comeback.
Chiyonokuni, ranked lowest in the top makuuchi division as a No. 17 maegashira, also entered the day at 5-0 but fell to second-tier wrestler Sadanoumi.
Chiyonokuni (5-1) launched a strong drive but Sadanoumi swiftly moved to his left to leave the veteran off balance before the No. 3 juryo wrestler pounced to secure a push-out win.
Ozeki Shodai (4-2) suffered his first career defeat in five meetings against in-form Kiribayama (5-1), who tested Terunofuji in a lengthy bout the day before.
The No. 2 maegashira quickly held shallow belt holds with both his hands and wasn’t overpowered by the stouter ozeki. Kiribayama moved on to grab a deep hold with his left hand before emphatically forcing the ozeki out.
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (5-1) brushed aside No. 3 Kotonowaka (2-4) in a brink, bulldozing the up-and-coming 23-year-old out as the two-time champion continued his promising campaign.
Ozeki Takakeisho (2-4), coming off two straight wins to seemingly get things back on track, could not even his record as he fell to No. 4 Tamawashi (3-3).
Takakeisho, who pulled out of the Nagoya meet in July with a neck injury, showed courage with his head-on initial charge but Tamawashi held his ground and comfortably won in a forceout.
As a demotion-threatened kadoban ozeki, Takakeisho needs a majority of wins here to retain his status at the sport’s second-highest rank.
No. 6 Onosho shoved out No. 8 Tobizaru (4-2) from the back, and No. 10 Myogiryu forced out No. 14 Kaisei (2-4) to complete the group of five top-division wrestlers on 5-1.
No. 4 Daieisho (4-2) was on top throughout his bout against Meisei (2-4), the New Year tournament winner producing his trademark thrusts throughout before slapping the new sekiwake to the clay.
Takayasu (2-4) won a battle of two struggling komusubi. He was shoved to the edge by Ichinojo (2-4) but made his escape with a right-handed thrust down which was enough to force the giant wrestler off the ring.
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