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Thursday, Dec. 25, 2003

Ozeki Tochiazuma takes prestigious east slot

Ozeki Tochiazuma, who defeated yokozuna Asashoryu to win the Kyushu basho, will occupy the prestigious east slot as the Japan Sumo Association released the rankings on Wednesday for the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Tochiazume is flanked by stablemaster Tamanoi (right) and his stablemaster's wife at the Tamanoi stable in Fukuoka upon being named ozeki in this file photo from November, 2001.

Asashoryu, the fiery grand champion from Mongolia, becomes the sole remaining wrestler to hold sumo's highest rank after the retirement of Samoan-born yokozuna Musashimaru during the meet in Fukuoka last month.

New bad boy on the block Kokkai from Georgia is expected to make a splash in the elite makuuchi division, after dominating his opponents to win the juryo title with a 14-1 record, when the 15-day meet kicks off at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 11.

Tochiazuma, who won his second career Emperor's Cup with a 13-2 record in Kyushu, shares the east slot with ozeki Kaio while ozeki Chiyotaikai and Musoyama take the west position.

Tosanoumi, who went 10-5 in November, makes his return to the east sekiwake berth after eight basho while Tamanoshima earned promotion to the west slot with an identical record.

Elsewhere, Tochinonada gained promotion to komusubi for the first time in three meets in the east position while Wakanosato, who was demoted from sekiwake after a 7-8 showing, will occupy the west.

Kokkai, previously a No. 2 juryo division wrestler, joins the top flight 16 basho after his debut -- the 10th quickest to make the elite makuuchi division for wrestlers since 1958.

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