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Sunday, March 25, 2001

Spring tourney goes down to the wire

OSAKA -- Yokozuna Takanohana dragged tournament leader Kaio down to a second consecutive loss Saturday to ensure that the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament championship derby will come down to the final two bouts of the 15-day affair Sunday.

Ozeki Musoyama, meanwhile, kept alive his own chances for the championship hardware by muscling sekiwake Wakanosato around the ring at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium and then out for his 12th win of the tournament.

On Sunday, Kaio and Musoyama square off in an all-ozeki encounter with the chance to either win the Emperor's Cup outright or face Takanohana in a playoff for the crown.

Takanohana meets rival yokozuna Musashimaru in the tournament's final scheduled bout in which a win by the New Year tourney champion will ensure a playoff.

In the day's featured bout, Kaio slipped to the left at the faceoff and kept Takanohana off his belt as he drove the yokozuna to the edge of the ring and appeared on the verge of posting win No. 13.

Takanohana, however, fought back desperately to the center where they both unleashed belt throws. After a moment of being suspended motionless at the top of their throws, Kaio crumbled to his knees for his second straight loss of the tourney.

In the previous bout, Musoyama charged out of his crouch to drive Wakanosato (6-8) to the bales and after the sekiwake slipped away, turned around and did it again for the win.

Musashimaru, who saw his mathematical chances for the title evaporate with his stablemate's win over Kaio, made short work of Tochinonada (7-7) by marching the sekiwake straight out of the ring for his 11th win.

The other ozeki members of the Musashigawa stable, however, had another tough day at the office.

No. 4 maegashira Takanowaka (8-6) sent Dejima flying through the air for an upset win, while Mongolia's Asashoryu (9-5) met little resistance from Miyabiyama as he slapped and shoved the ozeki out of the ring.

Dejima (7-7), who was 7-8 in January, will need a win Sunday against Asashoryu to hold onto his ozeki status and Miyabiyama (6-8), who faces Wakanosato on the final day, will need at least eight wins in May to keep sumo's second highest rank.

In an earlier bout, former ozeki Takanonami (5-9) backed Kyokutenho out of the ring to hand the listless top maegashira from Mongolia his 11th loss.

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