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Saturday, Jan. 20, 2001

DAY 13

Maru hands Taka sole lead

Grand champion Musashimaru crashed to his first defeat at the hands of newly promoted sekiwake Wakanosato on Friday, while rival yokozuna Takanohana bumped out ozeki Kaio to snatch the lead on 13-0 at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Musashimaru's upset loss in the day's final bout at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan capped a disastrous afternoon for the Musashigawa camp as ozeki stablemates Musoyama, Dejima and Miyabiyama all suffered embarrassing defeats at the 15-day meet.

In a dramatic finale, Musashimaru charged in low at the face-off but Wakanosato read his attack well by dodging to the right and quickly seizing the opportunity to haul the Samoan-born giant down by the neck for his ninth win of the tourney.

In the preceding bout, Takanohana put on another convincing display as he bundled a stubborn Kaio out of the ring with a left-handed belt grip and also ended the ozeki's slim title hopes by saddling him with loss No. 3.

A win over ozeki Dejima on Saturday coupled with a Kaio victory over Musashimaru could give Takanohana his 21st Emperor's Cup and end a title drought which dates back to September 1998.

At the ozeki rank, Dejima's form continued to plummet with a seventh loss as Mongolia's No. 8 maegashira Kyokutenho (9-4) sent him sprawling to the dohyo dirt within seconds of the charge.

Musoyama gave up his early advantage and dropped to 7-6 as Kotoryu flung the defending champion out of the ring for his eighth win, assuring the No. 7 maegashira a promotion for the spring tourney in March.

Earlier, Miyabiyama showed exactly why sumo officials are concerned about a drop in standards at sumo's second-highest rank, putting up little resistance as komusubi Tochinonada (7-6) bundled the ozeki over the straw bales for an easy win.

Kotomitsuki, already facing demotion in his first tourney at sekiwake, showed traces of the form which secured a 13-2 runnerup record at last year's Kyushu meet by effortlessly blasting out maegashira top gun Tochisakae to leave both wrestlers at 3-10.

Meanwhile, the Mongolian duo of Kyokushuzan and makuuchi division debutante Asashoryu failed to match compatriot Kyoukutenho's impressive win as both slipped to their sixth and fifth losses respectively.

Former komusubi Kyokushuzan was shoved out from behind by fifth-ranked Tamakasuga (6-7) while Asashoryu, already assured of promotion in March, was marched out by Tamanonada.

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