Just when it appeared that Terunofuji would run away from the pack at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament, rank-and-filer Daieisho stepped up to hand the Mongolian his first loss as a yokozuna and inject some much-needed drama into the 15-day meet.
Terunofuji went into the Monday, September 20 bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan in the sole lead with an undefeated record and firmly in the driver’s seat heading into the second half of the basho.
But No. 4 maegashira Daieisho had other ideas when he fought off an attempt by Terunofuji to get a grip of his belt and used a ferocious arm thrust to the neck to stun the new yokozuna.
Once he seized the momentum with the arm thrust, Daieisho forced Terunofuji to the edge and shoved the stunned grand champion out over the edge to the delight of the crowd.
Daieisho improved to 6-3 while Terunofuji still has the sole lead but dropped to 8-1 and is now ahead of a group of five wrestlers by one win.
“I’m so happy,” Daieisho said. “I would never have had a chance if I allowed him to get a grip of my belt so I just tried to move forward and was able to get the advantage. I’ll just try to stay focused the rest of the way.”
Terunofuji seemed thrown off his game after not being able to get a grip on the belt. He is the only grand champion competing in this tournament as Hakuho is absent after two members of his stable tested positive for coronavirus.
As impressive as Daieisho’s win was, it may not have been the most spectacular bout of the day.
That honor would belong to Mongolian Hoshoryu who deployed a highly unusual “ipponzeoi” to defeat third-ranked Wakatakakage (4-5) and improve to 3-4-2.
Mongolian Hoshoryu, a nephew of former yokozuna Asashoryu, turned in a performance that would have made his uncle proud when he was pushed back to the edge where he had few options.
But facing almost certain defeat, Hoshoryu pulled off the rare technique that resembles a judo throw combined with a leg kick.
Hoshoryu’s head crashed down to the dirt surface just as Wakatakakage’s arm did, forcing the ringside judges to huddle to determine the winner.
After a brief consultation, the judges backed up the initial ruling of the referee that top maegashira Hoshoryu had indeed won.
It was a remarkable display of sumo by Hoshoryu, who just returned from two days off due to acute tonsillitis.
Elsewhere, ozeki Takakeisho posted his third consecutive win with a frontal push-out of komusubi Takayasu (3-6) to move to a record of 5-4.
Takakeisho, who needs a winning record to maintain his ozeki status, is in much better shape now than he was when he started the tournament at 0-3.
Ozeki Shodai fought off several powerful thrusts to the neck and used a frontal force-out to send Chiyoshoma over edge while improving to 6-3. Fifth-ranked maegashira Chiyoshoma fell to 1-8.
In other major bouts, giant killer Kiribayama claimed another sanyaku victim when he dodged to his side at the face-off before shoving out sekiwake Mitakeumi to give both wrestlers a 6-3 record.
No. 2 maegashira Kiribayama has beaten two ozeki wrestlers, two sekiwake and two komusubi.
Top maegashira Takanosho forced out komusubi Ichinojo (3-6) to improve to 5-4.
No. 10 maegashira Myogiryu is among the five wrestlers at 7-2 after he was shoved out by sixth-ranked maegashira Onosho, who is also at 7-2.
No. 17 maegashira Chiyonokuni improved to 7-2 after he hauled down fellow rank-and-filer Tokushoryu, who dropped to 3-6.
Popular No. 11 maegashira Endo joined the chase pack at 7-2 when his opponent, No. 15 maegashira Ichiyamamoto, lost his footing just after the face-off and was handed his sixth loss against three wins.
No. 8 maegashira Okinoumi also picked up his seventh when he forced eighth-ranked Tobizaru (4-5) out with a frontal push-out.
No. 10 maegashira Chiyotairyu (5-4) was having none of Ura’s shenanigans and quickly hauled the sixth-ranked maegashira down after a shove to the neck at the face-off.
Ura, who has a tendency to move several steps back at the face-off, has displayed some unorthodox sumo so far but only has a 4-5 record to show for it.
Fifth-ranked maegashira Takarafuji deployed a textbook underarm throw to dispatch Kotonowaka and improve to 5-4.
Third-ranked Kotonowaka pulled off a huge upset over ozeki Shodai on Day 8 but couldn’t repeat the magic on Monday and fell to 3-6.
First Star: Daieisho. Nobody was talking about the No. 4 maegashira before the tournament but with a giant “kinboshi” win that changed the complexion of the meet he’ll be getting plenty of attention.
Second Star: Hoshoryu. With a spectacular “ipponzeoi” there is no doubt about who the second star is.
Third Star: Kiribayama comes in at No. 3 with another win over a sanyaku wrestler.
Author: Jim Armstrong
The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here, on JAPAN Forward.