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Monday, March 11, 2002

Trio of dragons open with wins

OSAKA -- Sumo's trio of wrestlers born in 1976 -- the year of the dragon -- kicked off their bids for promotion to the yokozuna and ozeki ranks with convincing wins Sunday at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Ozeki Tochiazuma marched out komusubi Wakanosato and ozeki Chiyotaikai shoved out top maegashira Buyuzan at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium while sekiwake Kotomitsuki muscled out third-ranked maegashira Tochinonada.

Tochiazuma and Chiyotaikai, who met in a playoff for the title in the New Year tourney in January, are hoping a championship campaign in Osaka will net them the title of yokozuna.

Kotomitsuki, meanwhile, wants to earn a place on sumo's already crowded second rung of ozeki and will need about 12 wins over the next two weeks to do the job.

Meanwhile, Samoan-born grand champion Musashimaru, who pulled out of the New Year tourney with a wrist injury, bellied out komusubi Takanonami to extend his winning streak over his old ozeki rival to eight and improve his head-to-head record to 35-18.

Yokozuna Takanohana is sitting out his fifth straight tournament with damaged knee ligaments that continue to give the winner of 22 Emperor's Cups trouble.

In other bouts featuring ozeki on Sunday, Kaio backed Kyokutenho, a No. 2 maegashira from Mongolia, out of the ring, but Musoyama was pulled down for a loss by top maegashira Tosanoumi.

Mongolia's trio of wrestlers were shut out of the win column on the first day.

Along with Kyokutenho's loss to Kaio, sekiwake Asashoryu was pushed out of the ring by No. 2 maegashira Kotonowaka and third-ranked Kyokushuzan stepped out just before No. 4 Akinoshima hit the ground on his elbow as both wrestlers tumbled over the straw bales.

Towanoyama pulls out

OSAKA (Kyodo) Makuuchi-division debutante Towanoyama has pulled out of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament due to a knee injury, sumo officials said Sunday.

It is the first time that Towanoyama, who was scheduled to wrestle fellow rank-and-filer Takamisakari on the opening day of the 15-day meet, has pulled out of a tournament.

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