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Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003

Asashoryu charges ahead

He's one win away from his second straight title

Ozeki Asashoryu let his speed do the talking Friday as he walloped komusubi Wakanosato to move one win away from clinching his second consecutive title by winning the New Year Sumo Tournament.

The roughhouse started with Wakanosato taking a slight edge after the charge, but the Mongolian brawler quickly took matters into his own hands against the komusubi, who collapsed ringside after a devastating salvo at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Asashoryu spun Wakanosato around, using his arm as brace and then flattened the komusubi to the dirt from behind with a cheeky shove from the belly.

With just two days left and a 12-1 record, a win Saturday will wrap up the championship for Asashoryu and virtually ensure his promotion to sumo's top rank of yokozuna, with the closest contenders Dejima and Wakanosato at 10-3.

Third-ranked Dejima was the surprising loser in a clash with the ever-popular Takamisakari, practically ending his shot at capturing his first title in more than three years.

Dejima charged buffalo style into Takamisakari (9-4) but was thrown headlong into the front row seats by the No. 9 maegashira using a deft belt technique.

A sluggish-looking ozeki Musoyama (7-6) got some vigor back in his system with a solid shove-out of journeyman Hokutoriki (5-8).

Kotomitsuki (8-5) got bustled out by fifth-ranked maegashira Iwakiyama (6-7) but fellow sekiwake Takanowaka made brief work of Kyokushuzan (6-7) to notch a winning record in his debut at the third-highest rank.

Mukuuchi-fledgling Takanotsuru (9-4), who flattened Dejima unceremoniously a day earlier, was himself knocked silly over the straw bales in a weak showing against juryo wrestler Buyuzan.

Kasugao, a 13th-ranked South Korean grappler, slipped to his fifth loss when seventh-ranked Wakanoyama (7-6) carted him over the edge seconds after the charge.



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