New sekiwake Kiribayama came from behind to win the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, beating overnight leader Daieisho in the final regulation bout and again in a sudden-death tiebreaker.
Trailing komusubi Daieisho by one win coming into the final day at Edion Arena Osaka, the Mongolian sekiwake prevailed in their scheduled meeting to create a 12-3 deadlock in the title race and force the tiebreaking match.
Daieisho started their first bout strongly, pushing and thrusting Kiribayama back to the edge. But as the komusubi looked to deliver a final push, Kiribayama slipped to the side and pulled off the reversal with a thrust down.
The former Emperor's Cup winner burst out of the blocks again in the playoff, pounding Kiribayama backward. The sekiwake was quicker to take control the second time around, getting hold of the komusubi and thrusting him down.
Ringside officials met inside the dohyo to determine whether Kiribayama stepped out while executing the winning move, but quickly upheld the judge's ruling.
"I didn't know what was going on with the judges' ruling," Kiribayama said. "It wasn't great sumo either time, but I was able to win."
The 26-year-old said he had come a long way since making his 2015 sumo debut.
"When I first entered sumo, I didn't understand anything that was going on, but somehow, eight years later, I've made it this far."
By winning the title in his first meet as sekiwake, sumo's third-highest rank, Kiribayama has made a strong case for future promotion to ozeki.
Both Kiribayama and Daieisho received a Technique Prize for their performances at the 15-day tournament, although it may be little consolation for the komusubi, who came up short in his bid to add a second Emperor's Cup to the one he raised in January 2021.
No. 5 maegashira Midorifuji, who held the outright lead after a 10-0 start, finished the tournament with his fifth straight loss courtesy of No. 1 Shodai. The former ozeki stopped his smaller, speedier opponent in his tracks and executed an arm barring force out that left both wrestlers with 10-5 records.
The first top-division wrestler from Kazakhstan, No. 14 Kinbozan, claimed a Fighting Spirit Prize after wrapping up his makuuchi debut tournament with an 11-4 record.
The action inside the ring throughout the tournament was overshadowed by the absence of wrestlers from sumo's top two ranks for the first time since the start of Japan's Showa era in 1926.
Sole yokozuna Terunofuji sat out from the opening day for the third straight meet after having surgery on both knees last October, while lone ozeki Takakeisho withdrew on Day 7 with a knee injury.