Rank-and-file grappler Midorifuji stayed unbeaten Saturday to take the outright lead after seven days of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, where the action inside the ring was overshadowed by the injury withdrawal of lone ozeki Takakeisho.

The 15-day tournament at Edion Arena Osaka became the first since the start of Showa Era in 1926 to be contested without a wrestler from sumo's top two ranks after Takakeisho's withdrawal, coupled with the complete absence of lone yokozuna Terunofuji following surgery.

The 26-year-old Takakeisho ended his bid for a second straight championship and yokozuna promotion after pulling out earlier in the day with a left knee injury.

He dropped to 3-4 for the meet by forfeiting his scheduled Day 7 bout against No. 3 maegashira Nishikigi (2-5), and will be ranked as a demotion-threatened "kadoban" ozeki for the next grand tournament in May.

Midorifuji (L) defeats Takayasu on the seventh day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Edion Arena Osaka on March 18, 2023. (Kyodo)

Starting the day in a three-way tie for the lead, No. 5 maegashira Midorifuji improved to a perfect 7-0 by thrusting down one of the other front runners, No. 7 Takayasu (6-1).

The other joint overnight leader, Daieisho, took his first loss of the meet as he was thrust down by fellow komusubi Wakamotoharu (5-2), leaving the 26-year-old Midorifuji alone atop the standings.

Now the top-billed wrestler at the tournament along with his two fellow sekiwake, Wakatakakage (2-5) ground out his second straight win against No. 4 Onosho (4-3), who got on top early before being forced out.

Sekiwake Hoshoryu (4-3) used an under-shoulder swing down to dispatch No. 2 Ryuden (1-6), while new sekiwake Kiribayama (4-3) continued his up-and-down run with a force-out loss to komusubi Kotonowaka (5-2).

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