Sumo championship: Hoshoryu beats Hokutofuji in playoff for maiden championship
Nagoya, Japan (KYODO)- Sekiwake Hoshoryu captured his first elite makuuchi-division championship after beating rank-and-file wrestler Hokutofuji in a playoff Sunday at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
The 24-year-old nephew of former Mongolian great Asashoryu is also set for promotion to ozeki after finishing with a 12-3 record that gives him 33 wins over three consecutive meets as a sekiwake, meeting a key benchmark to attain sumo’s second-highest rank.
He reached the playoff by winning his final regulation bout against 19-year-old rookie sensation Hakuoho, who was bidding to win the title in his top-division debut.
Hoshoryu, No. 9 maegashira Hokutofuji and No. 17 Hakuoho came into the final day of the 15-day meet at Dolphins Arena as the only remaining contenders at 11-3, guaranteeing that a first-time champion would be crowned.
Former komusubi Hokutofuji (12-3) stayed in the hunt by beating No. 1 Nishikigi (10-5) before Hoshoryu took care of Hakuoho (11-4) in their head-to-head bout
“I had to win, because that was my ticket to the championship playoff,” Hoshoryu said at his victory ceremony.
Anticipating his opponent’s opening charge, Hoshoryu secured a belt grip and used it to drop the powerfully built Hakuoho to the clay with an overarm throw.
Pusher-thruster Hokutofuji was aiming to beat Hoshoryu for just the second time after winning their scheduled bout on Day 12. He kept the sekiwake off his belt but could not stop his advance, desperately opting for a pull that hastened Hoshoryu’s victory by push out.
Normally known for his fierce expression inside the ring, Hoshoryu began shedding tears as he stepped off the dohyo.
“I was just so overwhelmed with joy, I was trying to hold it back but the tears just came,” said Hoshoryu, who also thanked his illustrious uncle at the ceremony.
A highly skilled grappler, Hoshoryu entered the sumo world under a spotlight on account of his family ties. He has compiled a winning record in every one of his tournaments among the three elite “sanyaku” ranks below yokozuna since debuting at komusubi in March 2022.
“I now think that I did everything I could, and I did well,” he said. “I didn’t think one bit about ozeki promotion.”
A protege of former yokozuna Hakuho at the Miyagino stable, Tottori Prefecture native Hakuoho was aiming to become the first wrestler in 109 years to win a top-division championship on debut.
He would have also been the youngest top-division winner, at 19 years and 11 months, since former yokozuna Takanohana, then known as Takahanada, won the January 1992 tournament at 19 years and five months.
The Japan Sumo Association’s prize selection committee recognized Hakuoho’s headline-grabbing tournament with both Fighting Spirit and Technique prizes, making him the first debutant to garner two of the three special awards since Ichinojo in September 2014.
Ozeki Kirishima, who missed the first three days with bruised ribs, finished with a 6-7-2 record and will fight as a demotion-threatened “kadoban” ozeki at the next meet.