Sekiwake Kotonowaka, who last weekend came within one win of securing his first career championship at the New Year tourney, was confirmed by the Japan Sumo Association as sumo's newest ozeki wrestler Wednesday.
The 26-year-old from Chiba Prefecture comes from a sumo family. His late maternal grandfather was yokozuna Kotozakura, while his father is his Sadogatake stablemaster, the former sekiwake Kotonowaka.
The promotion to the sport's second-highest rank was approved unanimously by the JSA's rankings committee and an extraordinary session of its board of directors.
"With a feeling of gratitude I will devote myself to the way of sumo in order to live up to the title of ozeki," the younger Kotonowaka said when receiving the official news.
He revealed that he plans to compete in March's Spring Grand Sumo Tournament as an ozeki under his current ring name but hopes to switch to the Kotozakura moniker his grandfather used.
"I've wanted to take on my first tournament as Kotonowaka," he said. "I'm not intending to remain where I am after ascending to this rank. I aspire to improve even more."
His proud stablemaster has expectations that Kotozakura will once more be carried into the raised ring by a yokozuna.
"He's got one more step to climb," Sadogatake said. "I told him that being an ozeki was just one stop on his longer journey."
The new ozeki, who stands 189 centimeters and weighs 177 kilograms, went 13-2 in January to finish in a tie with yokozuna Terunofuji, who beat the youngster in their ensuing championship playoff.
Kotonowaka's 13 wins gave him 33 from three consecutive tournaments as a sekiwake or komusubi, the unofficial benchmark for promotion to ozeki.
The rankings for the next 15-day tournament in Osaka, starting on March 10, will now boast four ozeki wrestlers for the first time since the July 2021 grand tournament.