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Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2004

Asashoryu heads up East slot, Tochiazuma returns to ozeki

Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu will be gunning for his fifth straight Emperor's Cup atop the prestigious East position as the Japan Sumo Association announced the rankings Monday for the upcoming Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Asashoryu, who claimed victory in Nagoya with 13 wins in July, will be hoping to keep his astonishing run going and make the headlines for all the right reasons when the 15-day meet gets under way on Sept. 12 at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Asashoryu's notorious off-the-ring behavior was brought under the media spotlight in July after a post-victory drunken rage but the fiery Mongolian is once again an undisputed favorite on the dohyo, with an unprecedented sweep of all six tournaments in a single calendar year well within his sight.

Meanwhile, Tochiazuma returns to ozeki after posting 10 wins, including an upset victory over Asashoryu in Nagoya.

Tochiazuma, who dropped from sumo's second-highest rank after missing the summer meet through injury, became the first wrestler to return to the ozeki rank since Musoyama did it at the Kyushu basho four years ago.

Ozeki Kaio, who went 11-4 in July, and perennial underachiever Musoyama take up the East slot with Chiyotaikai on the West side.

Wakanosato, who has retained his rank in the "sanyaku" -- the three ranks below yokozuna -- for 17 consecutive basho, stays at sekiwake and is joined by former ozeki Miyabiyama, who won promotion after an impressive 12-3 showing last time out.

Lower down the ranks, Bulgarian grappler Kotooshu, Roho of Russia and Toyonoshima will all be making their debuts in sumo's top flight after winning promotion from the second-tier juryo division.

Kotooshu becomes the quickest wrestler since 1958 to reach the makuuchi division. He achieved it in just 11 tournaments after making his professional debut.

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