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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hakuho bounces back to stay tied for lead at spring meet

OSAKA (Kyodo) Sekiwake Hakuho returned to winning ways to beat Kotomitsuki and stay firmly in contention for his first Emperor's Cup with a 12th victory at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday.

News photo
Asashoryu heaves out Chiyotaikai on the 13th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

The win kept Hakuho tied with grand champion Asashoryu at 12-1 with two days of the 15-day basho remaining and further strengthened his case for promotion to sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki.

With his father among a full house at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium, Hakuho was all business as he shrugged off a spirited challenge from Kotomitsuki (8-5) and flipped his opponent down to the dirt.

Asashoryu got an early scare from Chiyotaikai (8-5) but stayed in the hunt for his first title of the year when he got one hand on the ozeki's belt and used the other to yank him down to the sandy surface by the back of his neck.

Asashoryu, who saw his record seven-tournament winning streak ended at the New Year meet takes on Kotooshu on Saturday with Hakuho set for a showdown with Wakanosato.

Elsewhere, Kaio pulled off another Houdini act to see off Dejima with a beltless armthrow and keep alive his hopes of retaining his ozeki rank with a sixth win.

Kaio, who faces Kotomitsuki on Saturday, needs to win both of his final bouts to complete the great escape and avoid demotion to sekiwake after this tournament.

Tochiazuma capitalized on an early slip-up from fellow ozeki Kotooshu (9-4) and blasted the Bulgarian out to score his 10th win.

Tochiazuma, who came into the tournament aiming for promotion to yokozuna but appears to have failed in his bid having dropped his third bout on Wednesday, is two wins behind the leading Mongolian pair with rank-and-filers Kyokushuzan and Wakanosato.

At sumo's fourth rank of komusubi, Miyabiyama (8-5) was pulled down in a matter of seconds by fifth-ranked Kyokutenho (9-4) but struggling Roho countered to see off Iwakiyama for a fourth win.

Mongolian livewire Ama continued to punch above his weight and showed dogged determination to force out top-ranked Tamanoshima in a marathon bout to improve to 6-7. Tamanoshima dropped to 4-9.

In the lower regions of the makuuchi division, 11th-ranked maegashira Wakanosato saw his title hopes take a hit after the former sekiwake was dumped to a third defeat by 15th-ranked Tamakasuga (8-5)

Kyokushuzan can expect a bump up the rankings for the summer meet in May after he moved into double digits with a force-out win over fellow Mongolian maegashira Tokitenku (7-6).

Estonian giant Baruto clinched the second-tier juryo division title when he posted a 13th straight win in his bout with Mokonami and is set to become the latest European grappler to enter sumo's top flight in May.

Related story:
Mongolian Hakuho virtually assured of promotion to ozeki



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