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Friday, March 22, 2002

Maru stays on top

OSAKA -- Yokozuna Musashimaru shook off the challenge of sekiwake Kotomitsuki on Thursday to post his 11th win of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament and remain one step ahead of ozeki Kaio and No. 11 maegashira Takanowaka.

Musashimaru, who fell to Asashoryu the day before, regained his championship pace at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium by shaking off Kotomitsuki's arm-drag attempt and then shoving the sekiwake out of the ring to move to 11-1.

Musashimaru's win sets up a key showdown with Kaio (10-2) on Friday.

Kaio, the defending champion in the Osaka meet, had little trouble slipping inside Chiyotaikai's thrusting attack in an all-ozeki encounter. Kaio turned Chiyotaikai around and backed him out of the ring. Chiyotaikai suffered his fifth loss.

Tochiazuma was muscled out of the ring by Musoyama after an ozeki free-for-all that left the New Year meet champion virtually eliminated from contention for a second straight championship.

Musoyama won his eighth while Tochiazuma, who had been seeking promotion to yokozuna, slumped to his fourth loss.

In an earlier bout, Takanowaka rammed No. 5 maegashira Otsukasa (6-6) out of the ring with a strong clutch at the throat to stay at 10-2.

Takanowaka takes on fiery Mongolian sekiwake Asashoryu on Friday.

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