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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Kotomitsuki, Asa tied at top

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Kotomitsuki all but secured promotion to the second-highest rank of ozeki with his 12th win and stayed tied for the lead with Asashoryu, while Hakuho suffered his second loss at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday.

News photo
Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, left, retains his one-loss record by defeating No. 6 maegashira Homasho on the 13th day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on Friday. KYODO PHOTO

After a pair of false starts by Homasho at the faceoff, Kotomitsuki (12-1) held his composure and got his right arm under the armpit of the sixth-ranked maegashira before crouching forward for a powerful shove-out win at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Homasho (9-4) dropped out of title contention with his third defeat in as many days.

The Japan Sumo Association is certain to begin procedures shortly after the end of the 15-day meet in order for the 31-year-old Kotomitsuki to become the oldest ozeki debutant since 1958, when sumo switched to the current system of having six tournaments a year.

The latest victory also boosted a chance for the Sadogatake stable wrestler to lift the Emperor's Cup. He is scheduled to face lower-ranked opponents on each of the next two days while Asashoryu and Hakuho will face each other in the grand finale on Sunday.

The only championship title of Kotomitsuki's career came in September 2001 when he wrestled as a second-ranked maegashira.

Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi has indicated that Kotomitsuki needs 12 wins this month to make the jump from sumo's third highest rank, where he's wrestling for a record 22nd time.

The JSA usually requires wrestlers to win 33 to 34 bouts over three meets before giving the green light for ozeki promotion. Kotomitsuki went 22-8 in the previous two tournaments.

In January 2002, Kotomitsuki was overlooked in his bid to earn ozeki promotion despite meeting the JSA's loosely set requirement with a combined 34 wins over three meets.

He was in a good position to be elevated to ozeki again in March that year and also in 2005, but flopped both times with mediocre performances.

In the day's final bout, Asashoryu (12-1) won his 12th straight after suffering an opening-day upset to sekiwake Aminishiki (8-5), capitalizing on Chiyotaikai's halfhearted faceoff charge.

Hakuho (11-2) was dealt a blow in his bid to become only the eighth man to lift the Emperor's Cup on his yokozuna debut at the hands of Kotooshu (8-5), whose sidestepping maneuver at the faceoff paid off nicely.



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