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Friday, July 21, 2006

Asashoryu closes in on Nagoya tourney title

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Asashoryu moved a step closer to the title of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament with his 12th straight win while fellow Mongolian Hakuho kept his promotion hopes alive on Thursday.

Asashoryu maintained his blemish-free record by disposing of ozeki Kotooshu (6-6) with a powerful throw and stayed two wins clear of Hakuho and two rank-and-filers in the race for the Emperor's Cup.

Asashoryu could clinch his 17th career title and first since his triumph at the spring meet in March as early as Friday.

In Thursday's final bout, Asashoryu showed no mercy against his Bulgarian opponent, wrestling with the effects of a nagging knee injury, and hauled him down with a timely left-arm throw while resting his injured right arm.

Hakuho (10-2) wasted no time holding the belt of Tochiazuma (8-4) with his right hand and after a brief mid-ring lull, lunged forward to topple the fellow ozeki, who is nursing a left knee injury, at the edge of the ring.

Hakuho is chasing promotion to yokozuna and needs at least 13 wins, meaning he must win all of his remaining bouts in the 15-day meet at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Chiyotakai (9-3) faded out of title contention with his second straight loss, this time at the hands of sekiwake Kotomitsuki (8-4), who got both hands wrapped around the ozeki's body and bulldoze him over the straw bales in a lopsided affair.

Veteran Kaio, the other of five ozeki, got the belt of Kyokutenho (3-9) with both hands quickly after the faceoff and barged out the No. 2 maegashira to secure a winning record at 8-4.

Sekiwake Miyabiyama, who had seen his hopes for ozeki promotion all but dashed, won his second straight bout with a perfectly executed pull-down technique that sent Estonian giant Baruto rolling onto the sandy surface. Both wrestlers are at 7-5.

Russian No. 3 maegashira Roho got back-to-back wins after returning from a three-day suspension for assaulting photographers on Saturday, ramming out slumping Kyokushuzan in a matter of seconds for his sixth win.

But it was another bad day for Hakurozan (2-10), Roho's younger brother who could do little in the face of shoves from 20-year-old komusubi Kisenosato (6-6) and fell to his eighth loss in a row.

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