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Baruto closes in on perfect tourney

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

With his first championship title already a done deal, ozeki Baruto maintained his momentum with a thrashing of rival ozeki Kotooshu at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.

The Estonian man-mountain moved one win away from finishing the Tokyo meet with an undefeated 15-0 record after securing the title the previous day at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Lone yokozuna Hakuho, meanwhile, bounced back from his defeat to Kotooshu on Friday, tossing down ozeki Kotoshogiku after one hard hit at the tachiai to improve to an 11-3 mark.

Kotoshogiku, in his second meet at ozeki, must win his match against Harumafuji on Sunday to avoid a losing record.

“Today my timing was good,” said Hakuho, who saw his hopes of winning his third consecutive and 22nd career title dashed a day earlier. “Right now, I am just trying to give my all. I’ll do the same tomorrow.”

In the day’s premier bout, Baruto, who had trailed Kotooshu 12-8 in previous matchups, wasted little time disposing of Kotooshu (10-4) as he got his left hand inside for an under-handed grip and swung his opponent over the straw bales in one fast motion.

Baruto, who faces Hakuho on Sunday, has a shot to become only the fourth wrestler at sumo’s No.2 rank to win the title with a perfect mark. Musashimaru and Hakuho have achieved the feat and Takanohana did it twice as an ozeki.

Asked his thoughts on facing Hakuho on the final day, Baruto said, “Well, I haven’t lost yet this meet. Today I just tried to do what I normally do in my matches.”

Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji (11-3) sent ozeki debutant Kisenosato crumbling to the dohyo surface with a hard smack across the face and his opponent was slow getting up before he headed toward the dressing room nursing a fourth defeat.

Mongolian Kakuryu (9-5) appeared to have his match against rank-and-filer Takayasu (5-9) under control after getting his left hand in for an under-handed grip but his opponent wriggled free and sent the sekiwake backtracking over the ridge.

Aminishiki (8-6) got the better of Toyonoshima (5-9) after the pair grappled for leverage, slamming his smaller opponent to the dirt surface with an underarm throw.