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Sumo: Rank-and-filer Asanoyama wins maiden championship

Rank-and-filer Asanoyama, right, clinches his maiden championship on May 25, 2019 by beating ozeki Goeido with one day remaining at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo. (Kyodo)
Asanoyama (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Rank-and-filer Asanoyama clinched his maiden championship on Saturday by beating ozeki Goeido with one day remaining at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

In addition to the Emperor's Cup, the No. 8 maegashira Asanoyama will receive an American-made trophy from U.S. President Donald Trump, who will attend Sunday's tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"There was a lot of pressure (to win as a maegashira), but I was still able to wrestle the way I ordinarily do the whole time. That was the big thing," Asanoyama said.

Asanoyama's 12th victory came in a hard-fought bout against Goeido (9-5). Goeido seemed to have the advantage after the initial clash, seizing a left-handed over-arm hold.

The ozeki bulldozed Asanoyama toward the edge, but lacked the final touch. The maegashira, however, was able to seize a hold of his own and shoved the ozeki from the raised ring to become the first rank-and-file wrestler to win a grand tournament since Tochinoshin in January 2018.

"I'm glad to have won the match, but as for the championship, it hasn't sunk in yet," the 25-year-old Asanoyama said.

"I wanted to get to him first, but I remained calm and didn't do anything rash, when he got the first hold. Once I got a belt hold, I was able to execute my kind of sumo."

Grand champion Kakuryu, who opened the day a win behind Asanoyama, failed to win his sixth grand tournament after suffering a quick loss to sekiwake Tochinoshin (10-4).

Tochinoshin sealed his victory in 0.8 second, dodging the yokozuna's charge and slapping him down with his right hand.

With his 10th win, Tochinoshin, demoted to sekiwake for this tournament, secured his return to the ozeki rank, sumo's second-highest.

The Georgian, who was promoted to ozeki in July 2018, was unable to hold onto his rank after pulling out of the January meet without a single win and finishing 7-8 in March.

While wrestlers at the elite makuuchi division competed in front of a packed crowd on Saturday, many seats will be kept empty on Sunday to ensure tight security.

Ozeki Takayasu (8-6), who secured his winning record the previous day, lost to No. 7 Shodai (9-5). Takayasu slapped his opponent's chest and face several times, but Shodai resisted and pushed the ozeki down for his fifth win against Takayasu in 13 bouts.

Tamawashi, who won the January meet, picked up his 10th by beating Kotoeko (8-6). Tamawashi is competing at this tournament as a No. 3 maegashira wrestler after going 5-10 in March, when he competed as a sekiwake, the sport's third-highest rank.

No. 7 Meisei (9-5) saw his seven-match win streak end with a loss to No. 4 Abi (9-5).

Later in the day, No. 5 Ryuden (9-5) defeated Mongolian big-gun Ichinojo for his ninth win. The 227-kilogram Ichinojo (4-7-3) started out strong for the majority of the bout by stopping Ryuden's charge and pushing him toward the edge.

However, Ichinojo lost his momentum and stepped out of the ring helplessly as Ryuden came out strong.

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