Developing a Wrestling Prodigy

On this special edition of the RUDIS Wrestling Podcast, Ben Askren is joined by Yianni Diakomihalis for an exclusive interview. Diakomihalis explains how he started wrestling at the young age of five and by ten began training seriously with his father former Rochester Institute of Technology All-American Ilias Diakomihalis. They would watch film on YouTube of all-time greats like Buvaisar Saitev, learn what they’re doing successfully, and practice their moves. Ilias’s philosophy was to help Yianni become the most skilled wrestler he could possibly be and let speed and strength come secondary to skill and technician.

U.S. Recent Success on International Level (10:56)

Askren brings up the recent news of Artur Taymazov testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs for a second time after re-analysis of stored samples. He asks Diakomihalis if he believes some of the United State’s recent success on the international level could be due to the fact other countries like Russia have potentially stopped using PEDs and the competition is more level now. Diakomihalis says while that isn’t the only reason it is for sure a contributing factor. The next question Askren has is if Diakomihalis believes the restructure of weight classes at the Olympic Level has helped our hurt the United States. Adding 79 kg and 92 kg couldn’t have been better for the U.S. For example, Kyle Dake was able to find a home and went unscored upon last year at Worlds.

Middle School and High School Success (17:10)

Diakomihalis’ first high-level national success came in 2013 when he won Super 32. Sophomore Year of high school Diakomihalis won UWW Cadet Nationals against one his close friends and teammates Vitali Arjua. That year he went on to win his first UWW Cadet Gold. Diakomihalis didn’t let the fact he admired many of these wrestlers impact the way he wrestled against them. In his mind, he understood and used their moves so he had the best skills from all of them so how could they beat him? After losing to Daton Fix in the 2015 Flo Nationals, Diakomihalis began training at the NY RTC. He wanted high-level training partners and prepare himself for college while also preparing for the best wrestlers in high school.

Diakomihalis broke his elbow attempting a collar tie in practice near the beginning of his senior year season. He also had preventative surgery on his other elbow right after and was forced to sit out for 4-5 months.

Freshman Year of College (28:37)

During Diakomihalis’ true freshman year of college at Cornell, he won the 141 lbs NCAA Title. He only lost one match and ended his rookie season 37-1. Diakomihalis breaks down his matches from the 2017-2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships. He tells the story of him tearing his ACL at the beginning of the quarterfinals and asking his trainer to spare him the details and let him wrestle without knowing how bad it was. He goes on to win two tough matches on a blown ACL and secure his first NCAA Title.

Sophomore Year of College (36:05)

Sophmore season Diakomihalis goes undefeated 29-0 securing his second NCAA Title. After the college season, Diakomihalis then moves into freestyle and wins the U.S. Open defeating Zain Retherford. Diakomihalis talks about getting his weight down post knee surgery and how once he dialed it in it all manifested at the Open.

Yianni vs Zain Announcement (40:27)

Askren asks for an update on the ongoing arbitration over the Final X controversial second match between Diakomihalis and Retherford. Diakomihalis says the decision was scheduled for last Friday but was pushed back to July 29th. There are three possible outcomes that could be announced. One would be they do not reverse the call and Retherford remains the representative at 65 kg. Another could be they decide Diakomihalis, in fact, won match 2 and the series is tied 1-1 requiring a third match. Lastly, they could decide that match 2 was an illegitimate match and require them to re-wrestle match 2 with the possibility of Diakomihalis forcing a match 3 if he wins.


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Ben Askren and Matt Dernlan host the RUDIS Wrestling Podcast. Askren, World Champion, and Olympic Wrestler joins in official partnership as a content provider for all things RUDIS. Matt Dernlan joins from years of experience in D1 college coaching at Binghamton, Clarion, and Penn State University.

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