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Saturday, Sept. 22, 2001

Koto closes in on Emperor's Cup

Second-ranked maegashira Kotomitsuki blasted out Takanowaka for his 12th win to move within striking distance of his first Emperor's Cup at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday.

Former sekiwake Kotomitsuki guaranteed himself at least a place in a playoff for the title on a day when ozeki Musoyama and sekiwake Tochiazuma put the Sadogatake stable grappler's early victory celebrations on hold.

Welcomed on to the raised ring with huge roars from an expectant crowd at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, Kotomitsuki wasted no time in demobilizing Takanowaka (6-7) with a crunching bear hug before casually ushering his equal-ranked opponent out over the straw bales.

But neither Musoyama nor Tochiazuma, both two wins behind the leader on 10-3, were in any mood to allow their lower-ranked rival to uncork the champagne just yet.

Musoyama, the only ozeki to survive injury or humiliation after crocked trio Miyabiyama, Chiyotaikai and Kaio all pulled out during the 15-day tourney with losing records, held strong before eventually upending gritty komusubi Tamanoshima (6-7) with an outside leg trip. Tochiazuma met little resistance from Tochinonada (6-7) and shoved out the No. 5 maegashira in a matter of seconds to keep his faint championship hopes alive.

The efforts by Musoyama and Tochiazuma, however, may prove to be fruitless as Kotomitsuki can cart home the Emperor's Cup by taking out fourth-ranked Kaiho (9-4) on Saturday.

In the day's only other key bout, Musashimaru managed to scrape together his eighth victory but needed three attempts to finally shunt stubborn sixth-ranked maegashira Toki (6-7) over the ridge and secure a winning record. In a match-up of wrestlers certain to face demotion for the Kyushu basho in November, sekiwake Dejima (5-8) ended a five-bout losing streak by toppling Mongolian former komusubi Kyokushuzan, who slipped to his ninth defeat of the tournament.

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