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Monday, Sept. 16, 2002

Taka, Asashoryu roll on

Grand champion Takanohana put on another performance Sunday as he labored to a sixth win by muscling out sekiwake Wakanosato on the eighth day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Wakanosato sensibly kept Takanohana's favored right hand away from his sash but the 22-time Emperor's Cup winner had too much class for his opponent, putting together a three-bout winning run for the first time on his comeback from injury in the 15-day meet.

Spurred on by the roars of a sell-out crowd at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, Takanohana quickly changed his tactics after a stalemate at center ring and wrong-footed Wakanosato (5-3) before tipping him over the straw bales for the win.

Takanohana, back in the ring after missing a record seven straight tournaments with a career-threatening knee injury, lies two wins behind sole-leader Asashoryu.

The spunky Mongolian, showing no signs of pressure on his debut at sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki, preserved his unblemished record by making mincemeat of Kotoryu (2-6).

Meanwhile, grand champion Musashimaru ground out a hard-fought win over Toki (2-6) to remain hot on the heels of Asashoryu, along with last year's autumn champion Kotomitsuki and ozeki Chiyotaikai with a 7-1 record.

Asashoryu settled after a false start and quickly got down to business as he lured Kotoryu into his trap before slamming the No. 3 maegashira onto the sandy surface for a no-nonsense victory.

Yokozuna candidate Chiyotaikai burst out of his blocks like a raging bull and a powerful thrust to the throat followed up with a low charge was all he needed to defeat second-ranked maegashira Shimotori (1-7) to stay in contention for a second straight title.

Kaio (6-2) moved closer to recording the eight wins he needs to retain his ozeki rank with an easy force-out win over Mongolian maegashira Kyokutenho but Musoyama let his ozeki teammates down, slipping to a second defeat at the hands of sekiwake Tosanoumi (5-3).

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