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Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012

Baruto wins New Year basho



Ozeki Baruto clinched his first career title Friday with a victory over rival Kotoshogiku, achieving the feat with two days to spare at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Heavy lifting: Ozeki Baruto (right) grapples with Kotoshogiku on the 13th day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday. Baruto's victory helped him clinch his first Emperor's Cup. KYODO

Baruto's 13th consecutive win coupled by a third loss by deflated and vanquished yokozuna Hakuho, secured the title for the Estonian goliath at a meet that had all but lost steam in the title race a day earlier at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Baruto got both hands on the back of Kotoshogiku's (7-6) mawashi after a short exchange of slaps before dumping his opponent to improve to an insurmountable 13-0.

He became the ninth foreign-born wrestler and second from Europe after Bulgarian Kotooshu to win a championship.

"I don't have that much to say but I am excited," said Baruto, who made his debut at sumo's No. 2 rank at the 2010 summer meet. "The championship had been a dream of mine until now. I have made a strong effort at this meet and there was a lot of pressure in the title race. I tried not to focus on the title and just give my all."

Hakuho, who had the wind knocked from his sails after a second defeat the previous day against ozeki Harumafuji, also looked out of sorts against Kotooshu in the day's final bout.

Ozeki Kotooshu (10-3), who had not beaten the yokozuna since the 2009 summer basho, got his hand in for a tight grip on Hakuho before heaving him over the straw bales in dominant fashion.

"I wanted to make a strong charge but I hesitated a little at the tachiai. I wanted to cut him loose from the grip on my mawashi, but I couldn't stop him. I have to reflect on this defeat," said Hakuho, whose 22nd victory would have placed him in a tie for fifth on the all-time list with former yokozuna Takanohana.

In other noteworthy bouts, ozeki newcomer Kisenosato came back from the edge against Tochinowaka (7-6), getting his left hand in for an outside grip before ushering his opponent over in a frontal force out to improve to 10-3.

Harumafuji, who was jeered by the crowd a day earlier when he did a sneaky "henka" sidestep maneuver to beat Hakuho, muscled out Miyabiyama in a textbook frontal force out for his 10th win. Former ozeki Miyabiyama, who is back at sumo's fourth rank of komusubi, fell to an unflattering 3-10 mark.

Baruto was also booed on Thursday when he sidestepped Kisenosato in their bout to pick up a quick win.

Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu pulled Aminishiki (7-6) to the dirt surface after an exchange of slaps to improve his slate to 9-4, moving closer to the double-digit record he will need to make a run at ozeki at the spring basho.

In the lower ranks, Tenkaiho picked up his eighth win in his first campaign in the elite division, heaving out Kyokutenho (7-6), while Czech-born Takanoyama slapped down Yoshikaze (7-6) to move two wins from also securing a winning record.

Makuuchi debutant Chiyonokuni (9-4) appeared to have hurt a shoulder when he was rammed out by Georgian Tochinoshin (8-5) in an early bout.

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