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Friday, March 16, 2001

Kaio grabs sole lead in Osaka

OSAKA -- Ozeki Kaio dodged a bullet Thursday to preserve his unbeaten record and take sole possession of the lead, while yokozuna duo Takanohana and Musashimaru joined a logjam of wrestlers at 4-1 in the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Kaio got himself bent out of shape at the charge against No. 1 maegashira Kyokutenho (1-4), but a combination of veteran savvy and a lack of patience from the Mongolian decided the outcome as the ozeki escaped an arm lock to squash his opponent and improve to 5-0.

Takanohana, Musashimaru and ozeki Musoyama are all locked in a nine-way tie for second place along with half-a-dozen rank-and-file wrestlers a third of the way through the 15-day tourney at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

Winless komusubi Wakanoyama stood little chance against Takanohana in the day's final bout, and the yokozuna -- chasing his 22nd Emperor's Cup after winning in the New Year tourney -- waltzed his opponent out from behind for an easy win.

In contrast, Musashimaru won ugly again on Thursday, but the Samoan-born giant did well to weather an early assault from Kotoryu (1-4), before crunching the top-ranked maegashira onto the dirt surface.

Musoyama put No. 2 maegashira Chiyotenzan firmly in his place as he burst from the blocks and catapulted the hometown favorite onto the ringside cushions to leave both men at 4-1.

Sumo officials were left grumbling about Miyabiyama again after an embarrassing defeat to No. 3 maegashira Kotomitsuki (2-3) left the ozeki nursing a 2-3 record.

Miyabiyama, who only scraped together a winning record in the New Year meet after a final-day win over the same opponent, got himself in a muddle at the face-off and was flattened from behind by Kotomitsuki, looking to bounce back from a 4-11 record in January. Ozeki Dejima lost for the second straight day after a 3-0 start when komusubi Tochiazuma skipped to the side at the charge and slapped down the Musashigawa stable wrestler to post his first win.

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