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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baruto, Hakuho stay on collision course

OSAKA (Kyodo) Baruto passed his toughest test so far with flying colors at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday, overpowering veteran ozeki Kaio to stay on course for promotion moving into the final stretch of the 15-day basho.

News photo
Gathering momentum: Baruto sends Kaio out of the ring at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday. KYODO PHOTO

The Estonian sekiwake delivered another convincing performance at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium and looks set for a collision with title favorite Hakuho, the only other wrestler with a spotless 9-0 record here.

Rank-and-filer Tokitenku dropped his first bout and shares second place on 8-1 with ozeki Harumafuji, who sent fourth-ranked Tosayutaka (1-8) packing in a matter of seconds in the day's penultimate bout. Kotooshu, Homasho, Kotoshogiku and Miyabiyama are another win back.

Growing in confidence as the tournament progresses, Baruto pulled out of a slugfest and got his left hand on Kaio's (5-4) belt to force him over the ridge and take another step toward promotion to ozeki.

Baruto is likely to need at least four more wins from his last six bouts here to be considered for a move up the rankings for the summer basho in May.

Hakuho, the lone yokozuna following the recent retirement of Asasoryu, showed exactly why he is the man to beat as he lifted sekiwake Toyonoshima (4-5) off his feet with a devastating shove to keep his slate clean.

Tokitenku's best-ever start to a tournament came to a shuddering halt when former ozeki Miyabiyama grabbed the 13th-ranked Mongolian by the throat and yanked him down to the sandy surface.

In other key match-ups, Kotomitsuki (6-3) dispatched fifth-ranked Toyohibiki (1-8) at the second time of asking, while Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu kept his outside chances of the title alive after plowing fourth-ranked Tamawashi (3-6) into the ringside cushions.

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