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Thursday, Nov. 22, 2001

Maru back in driver's seat

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Grand champion Musashimaru rocked maegashira Toki to grab sole possession of the lead while sekiwake Tochiazuma and rank-and-filer Takanonami both were knocked for their second losses at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday.

The Samoan-born yokozuna, whose upset loss to Daizen moved him into a three-way tie for the lead on Tuesday, manhandled Toki, blasting him and his dangling sideburns out of the ring in the day's final bout on the 11th day of action at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Toki (6-5), sumo's Elvis Presley look-alike, floundered to get a piece of Musashimaru's mawashi but the "Moose" showed no mercy as he swiftly charged forward to upend the No. 7 maegashira and grab the lead at 10-1.

Meanwhile, Tochiazuma and No. 10 maegashira Takanonami, who had shared the lead with the yokozuna, were tripped up facing Kaio (6-5) and Asashoryu (8-3) respectively to move one place off at 9-2.

Tochiazuma was outdone by the relegation-threatened ozeki, whose resolve to remain at sumo's second-highest rank and a little hometown support helped him prevail.

The crowd roared with applause for the Fukuoka-born wrestler, who dug deep after the pair came to a standstill at center-ring to muscle out the sekiwake and move within two wins of avoiding demotion.

Fiery Mongolian Asashoryu took care of Takanonami with a surging throat-grab, throttling the dazed-looking No. 10 maegashira out for his second loss.

At Ozeki, Musoyama (8-3) took revenge for the Musashigawa stable with an impressive victory over Daizen (5-6), fresh from handing Musashimaru his only loss of the tourney.

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