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Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006

Tochiazuma tops Hokutoriki, in line for third title

Ozeki Tochiazuma swatted Hokutoriki to keep his lead, moving him within shooting distance of his third career title while grand champion Asashoryu saw his dream for an eighth straight title shattered at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.

News photo
Ozeki Tochiazuma downs No. 11 maegashira Hokutoriki on the 14th day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Tochiazuma kept Hokutoriki at bay with a salvo of shoves to the chest before pulling down the 11th-ranked maegashira in the penultimate bout at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, improving his record to 13-1 and immediately knocking Asashoryu out of the running for the Emperor's Cup spoils.

Asashoryu won all six tournaments in 2005, but appears to have lost his luster this time out.

He was the heavy favorite to win his 16th career title but suffered defeats to Kokkai, sekiwake Hakuho and rank-and-filer Ama, injuring his right elbow in his bout against Hakuho.

In the day's finale, Asashoryu bounced back from his defeat of the previous day, controlling his bout against ozeki Kotooshu from start to finish. He dragged the ozeki-debutant around by the arm before tossing him to the clay to improve to an 11-3 mark. Kotooshu dropped to 10-4.

Tokitsuumi and Hakuho went head to head but the sekiwake got the better of his 14th-ranked maegashira opponent with a powerful overarm throw to stay in the running against Tochiazuma at 12-2. Tokitsuumi slipped to 11-3.

Hakuho will have to beat Kotooshu in his bout on the final day Sunday and hope that Tochiazuma loses his bout against Asashoryu to set up a playoff for the title.

Up until Saturday, six wrestlers had been in contention for the title, including Asashoryu, Tochiazuma, Kotooshu, Hakuho, Tokitsuumi and Hokutoriki.

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