Undefeated Midorifuji overcame a 72-kilogram disadvantage against fellow rank-and-file wrestler Aoiyama as he maintained the outright lead Sunday at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament
Fighting as a fifth-ranked maegashira, the 26-year-old became the first wrestler to secure a winning record for the 15-day tournament by racking up his eighth straight victory on Day 8 at Edion Arena Osaka.
He absorbed a powerful elbow blast at the start of his battle with the hefty No. 9 maegashira from Bulgaria and conceded the momentum before yanking his opponent off balance and forcing him out.
"I knew that (elbow) was going to hurt if I got it in the mouth, but I held my ground," said Midorifuji, an Isegahama stablemate of lone yokozuna Terunofuji, who remains sidelined following knee surgery last October.
The Shizuoka Prefecture native said he has been receiving strong support, along with some gentle ribbing, from the Mongolian-born grand champion.
"I'm getting a lot of power from my stablemates and yokozuna Terunofuji," Midorifuji said. "The yokozuna has been telling me 'maybe you can win the championship,' but then he also says, 'but I don't think so.'"
Komusubi Daieisho, who relinquished his share of the lead on Day 7, stayed one win off the pace at 7-1 by pushing out No. 2 Abi (5-3).
All three wrestlers occupying the third-highest rank of sekiwake were victorious on Day 8. Wakatakakage (3-5) thrust down No. 3 Nishikigi (2-6), Hoshoryu (5-3) forced out No. 3 Mitakeumi (3-5), and new sekiwake Kiribayama (5-3) used an overarm throw to win a see-sawing battle with komusubi Tobizaru (4-4).
The ongoing grand tournament is the first since the start of the Showa Era in 1926 to be contested without a wrestler from sumo's top two ranks following ozeki Takakeisho's injury withdrawal on Saturday.