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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Asashoryu, Hakuho stay perfect

Osaka (Kyodo) Yokozuna Asashoryu and promotion-chasing sekiwake Hakuho remained unstoppable with their ninth straight wins Monday and continued to share the lead at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Hakuho throws down Kotooshu on the ninth day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Asashoryu took a cautious approach against fellow Mongolian-born Kyokutenho (6-3) in the day's final bout at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium before muscling the No. 5 maegashira out of the ring with a well-timed charge for another convincing win.

Asashoryu, reigning on top of the rankings as the lone yokozuna for a record 14th tournament, is looking to bounce back from his disappointing campaign at the New Year meet in January when he saw his streak snapped after capturing an unprecedented seven straight titles.

Hakuho also kept his perfect record intact following a thrilling exchange of belt-grip throws with Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu, who appeared to take control of the match early on.

Kotooshu took a tight upper-hand grip on the front side of Hakuho's belt moments after the face-off but the skillful Mongolian turned the tables by getting both hands wrapped around his opponent and finishing off the bout with a powerful throw.

"I didn't do well in the face-off and gave him a change to hold my belt. I thought I would have to go aggressive more than usual to turn around the situation and I'm glad it paid off," Hakuho said.

The 21-year-old from Ulan Bator went 13-2 in January and is expected to earn promotion to the second-highest rank of ozeki with an equally strong showing this time in Osaka.

Ozeki Tochiazuma, who can't afford to lose any more bouts in his bid for yokozuna promotion, notched his second straight win by shoving out pint-sized Mongolian maegashira Ama with a convincing bout.

Tochiazuma is two wins behind the front-running Mongolian duo with six days left in the 15-day tournament. Earlier, the 29-year-old lost to rank-and-filer Aminishiki and komusubi Miyabiyama.

Chiyotaikai snapped his three-day losing skid after a 5-0 start, handing Kaio his fifth loss with a series of his trademark slaps and shoves in a matchup between relegation-threatened ozeki wrestlers.

Kaio, like Chiyotaikai is facing demotion for a record ninth time, now needs four wins out of six bouts to retain his ozeki rank. His stable master had earlier indicated that the 33-year-old veteran may retire if he fails to post a winning record here in Osaka.

Komusubi Roho (2-7) saw his slap-down attempt backfire and gave Aminishiki (6-3) an easy force-out win.

Roho is the first Russian to wrest in the "sanyaku ranks -- the three positions below yokozuna, but one more loss will move him back into the maegashira ranks for the summer meet in May.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki stayed two wins off the lead after whipping hapless maegashira Futeno (2-7).

Top-ranked maegashira Kokkai from the former Soviet republic of Georgia (3-6) picked up his first win in three days with a one-sided force-out victory over fifth-ranked maegashira Tokitsuumi (1-8).

Lower in the makuuchi division, former ozeki candidate Wakanosato, the only wrester entering the day's bouts one off the pace, dropped to his second defeat after Mongolian wrestler Tokitenku (5-4) crushed the No. 11 maegashira down to the clay.

Russian Hakurozan improved to 5-4 and crowd favorite Takamisakari got his sixth win. South Korean Kasugao slipped to 3-6.

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