Kisenosato promoted to second highest rank

Tokyo (Kyodo) Kisenosato was formally promoted Wednesday to sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki after his elevation was finalized at a Japan Sumo Association (JSA) executive board meeting.

Kisenosato’s promotion was also endorsed at a JSA meeting to determine the rankings for the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament that will get under way at Ryogoku Kokugikan on January 8, 2012 when the 25-year-old steps onto the dohyo ring as one of five active ozeki wrestlers.

Known as the man who put an end to yokozuna Hakuho’s streak of 63 consecutive wins a year ago, Kisenosato is the second Japanese wrestler in as many tournaments to secure promotion to ozeki following Kotoshogiku, who got the green light after the autumn meet in September 2011. The next challenge for Japan is having one of their own win a tournament, a feat that hasn’t happened since January 2006.

The JSA’s officiating committee had voted unanimously in favor of promoting Kisenosato even before his final bout at the Kyushu tournament against Kotoshogiku, whom he lost to in a disappointing fashion, finishing with a 10-5 record at the 15-day meet. For sumo fans who hoped to witness the sekiwake battle it out with ozeki debutant Kotoshogiku for one more “crucial” victory, the decision by the Japan Sumo Association was a big letdown.

“Kisenosato has been solid through the last several tournaments. I want him to start putting himself in title contention,” said JSA chairman Hanaregoma. “I want him to keep doing what he is doing, work hard in training and aim to become yokozuna.”

Under the JSA’s loosely defined guidelines, a total of 33 wins over three consecutive tournaments is normally considered a requirement for a move up to ozeki. Kisenosato had reached 32 wins but the officiating committee, headed by former yokozuna Takanohana, made an exception based on his consistently strong performances and his potential.

Kisenosato had to make his run at ozeki while still coming to terms with the recent death of his mentor and stablemaster Naruto.