Lone ozeki Takakeisho defeated rank-and-file opponent Kotoshoho in a winner-take-all battle Sunday to be crowned champion of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
The highest-ranked competitor while yokozuna Terunofuji remains sidelined after surgery, Takakeisho captured his third career Emperor's Cup with a 12-3 record by toppling unlikely contender Kotoshoho, fighting as a 13th-ranked maegashira.
With the two alumni of renowned sumo factory Saitama Sakae High School deadlocked for the lead after the penultimate day, organizers scheduled them to face off for the trophy in the final bout of the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The ozeki was strong off the mark, knocking the underdog backward and wheeling him sideways before finishing him off with a beltless arm throw.
"As ozeki in this position, you're expected to win, but I've channeled that pressure into energy and inspiration," said Takakeisho, who was runner-up in November.
"Once I was up on the ring, I knew I had to give it my all, but I also felt I was here thanks to support from so many people, including my family."
The winning technique was a departure from the powerful pushing and thrusting that have been Takakeisho's bread and butter. It represented an expanded repertoire of moves from the 26-year-old, who could be in line for yokozuna promotion after winning his first title since November 2020.
"I wasn't able to get my training under control and in many cases I was just one win short of a title, so it was all very disappointing," he said. "Now I finally feel like I've been able to show my worth with this championship."
The 23-year-old Kotoshoho, who had not posted a winning record since March, capped off his best result in the top division with his first Fighting Spirit Prize.
Sekiwake Hoshoryu (8-7) was fortunate to maintain his spotless run of winning records as a member of the distinguished "sanyaku" ranks, when No. 8 Onosho (10-5) was penalized for grabbing the Mongolian's hair while slapping him to the clay.
A title contender until the penultimate day, Onosho needed to win the bout to claim his fourth Fighting Spirit Prize.
Sekiwake Wakatakakage showed off his impressive speed and strength to slap down No. 5 Nishikigi, with both wrestlers finishing at 9-6.
Former ozeki Shodai is set to drop further down the rankings after finishing at 6-9 in his first meet since demotion to sekiwake. The one-time Emperor's Cup winner was forced out by No. 6 Myogiryu (6-9).
Mongolian komusubi Kiribayama strengthened his case for promotion with an 11-4 record and a maiden Technique Prize following his force-out victory over No. 5 Ryuden (9-6).
Komusubi Kotonowaka (8-7) ensured a winning record in his sanyaku debut by bulldozing No. 6 Hokutofuji (7-8).
No. 3 Abi, November's champion, secured a winning record at 8-7 by thrusting out No. 15 Tsurugisho (7-8), while No. 1 Tobizaru earned his all-important eighth win against No. 13 Kotoeko (7-8).