Photo/Illutration Ozeki Takakeisho defeats rank-and-file Kotoshoho in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 22. (Takeshi Iwashita)

Ozeki Takakeisho chalked up his third career title at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Jan. 22 by defeating his rival on the final day. His victory came more than two years after he grabbed his previous championship.

Takakeisho, 26, overpowered Kotoshoho, maegashira No. 13 and co-leader for the lead, in a showdown on the last day of the tourney at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Takakeisho finished the 15-day meet with a 12-3 record, advancing closer to his goal of becoming yokozuna, sumo’s highest rank.

In an interview after he was handed the Emperor’s Cup, he said, “I am so happy because this is my first championship win after I got married.”

Takakeisho was the highest-ranked of all wrestlers who fought in this tourney as lone yokozuna Terunofuji missed out his third straight meet due to injuries.

Asked if he felt pressure being the only ozeki there, Takakeisho said, “Every day, I went to the dohyo feeling gratitude for all those people holding up expectations for me to do well, rather than taking pressure as burdensome.”

Maintaining a calm and fighting spirit is crucial for any wrestler to put in a good performance as the tournament is a 15-day affair, he said.

For Kotoshoho, the meet turned out to one to show off his potential to reach higher ranks as the 23-year-old managed to stay in the chase for the Emperor’s Cup until the end.

Takakeisho and Kotoshoho graduated from Saitama Sakae High School in Saitama that is known for its strong sumo team.