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Sunday, March 17, 2002

Maru still on top as Kaio falls

OSAKA -- Komusubi Wakanosato slapped down defending champion Kaio and Musashimaru rolled to another one-sided win Saturday as the yokozuna emerged the lone leader seven days into the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

With the ozeki on the sidelines nursing his first loss of the 15-day tourney, Musashimaru rammed No. 4 maegashira Akinoshima out of the ring at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium for his seventh straight win of the tournament.

Kaio's loss also gave hope to eight wrestlers with 5-2 records, including New Year champion Tochiazuma and fellow ozeki Musoyama, that their chances for the Emperor's Cup may reopen for them over the next eight days of the tournament.

In Saturday's key bout, Kaio and Wakanosato made strategic charges and took positions to prevent the other wrestler from securing control of their mawashi, or sashes, with the right hand.

After a brief stalemate, Kaio moved in strongly to grab the komusubi's belt, but Wakanosato (4-3) retreated to the edge of the ring and dragged the ozeki to the ring's surface.

In the final bout, Musashimaru denied Akinoshima (3-4) any chance of notching a record 17th upset win over a grand champion by pummeling the former sekiwake to the straw bales and then shoving him out of the ring.

Meanwhile, ozeki Tochiazuma, keeping his own hopes of a second straight tournament title alive, threw crafty komusubi Takanonami (3-4) into the ringside seats with a belt throw for a fifth win.

Musoyama also notched a fifth win by marching Mongolia's second-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho (1-6) straight out of the ring.

Sumo's fourth ozeki, Chiyotaikai, who was up for possible promotion to yokozuna along with Tochiazuma, saw those hopes dashed as he was bulldozed out of the ring by No. 3 maegashira Tochinonada.

Chiyotaikai, who squandered a strong charge, handed Tochinonada his second win of the tourney with an ill-advised pull-down attempt and was tagged with his third loss.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki also saw his hopes for promotion to ozeki virtually dissipated with a fourth loss as top maegashira Tosanoumi (3-4) knocked him to all fours with a strong shove and twist.

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