Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing some of the top wrestlers in New York for the upcoming campaign. We started with our #1 Junior High School grappler in the state, Penfield eighth grader Frankie Gissendanner (see link). The following takes a look at top freshman Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton High School. A glance at more ninth graders to watch will be next.
It was a time of celebration at the Times Union Center last February, but Yianni Diakomihalis didn’t scream or pose or run around.
“I just went into relaxed mode,” he said. “I won the state championship and it was over. A lot of people get really excited in that type of situation, but I kind of shut myself down and relaxed.”
He deserved the relaxation after finishing off a tremendous eighth grade campaign at 99 pounds in which he went 51-0 with 45 victories by bonus points. In fact, according to the NWCA Scorebook, Diakomihalis won his first 34 bouts by either pin, technical fall or forfeit.
His domination continued after those first 34 matches and even into the state tournament as he outscored his first three opponents in Albany 31-3 before taking on Syosset’s Vito Arujau in the championship contest.
It was not the first showdown between the eighth grade superstars. In October of 2012, the two met in an entertaining battle in North Carolina that Diakomihalis won 10-8.
The state title bout was also exciting. It went to the ultimate tiebreaker, where Diakomihalis grabbed a 3-2 victory and his first state crown.
“Winning the states was a pretty cool thing as an eighth grader,” he said when asked about the victories that stood out most to him over the past few years. “And winning the Super 32 was also really cool. It’s such a big tournament with so many top wrestlers from all over. It was a big deal to me, especially beating a really good kid in the finals.”
The grappler he beat for the Super 32 title was Oklahoma’s Daton Fix in a 7-1 decision. Fix was a Cadet Triple Crown winner this year, including Fargo titles in Freestyle (113 pounds) and Greco Roman (106) this summer.
Diakomihalis was not in the field at either of those events in North Dakota as he wasn’t old enough to compete this year. However, he looks forward to challenging himself in the international styles in 2014.
“I practiced a little bit in Freestyle this year, but I was too young for Fargo,” he said. “Next year, I plan to go to the big Freestyle tournaments.”
Fargo is a place where many wrestlers make a name for themselves. Diakomihalis has already done that, as he is ranked in the top five in the country by both Intermat and Flowrestling in the Class of 2017.
“It’s really nice to see your hard work paying off and other people recognizing your hard work,” Diakomihalis said. “It’s exciting to see your name on those national rankings.”
But he mentioned that there’s work to be done to continue his climb.
“My dad always tells me that the summer is where you pass kids by and get a lot better,” he said. “During the season, everyone’s working hard. If you put in the work in the summer, you can really pass other guys.”
He said in the “offseason”, he typically practices around five or six days a week, often in “The Garage” at his house, a wrestling room where grapplers such as Vincent, Anthony and Lou DePrez come to train. In addition, he puts in significant time at the G2 World Wrestling Academy.
“When I’m home, I’m always thinking about wrestling,” Diakomihalis said. “I like watching videos or talking to my dad about wrestling. When I’m at tournaments, I’m always watching, trying to see what I can learn from the high level guys. I also watch a lot of college wrestling and some of the world championship wrestlers.”
He mentioned Jordan Burroughs, Jordan Oliver and Kyle Dake as three of his favorites. He also follows Dake’s former teammates as a big fan of the Cornell wrestling team. [He even sports headgear with a “C” modeled after the equipment worn by Big Red All-American Nahshon Garrett at the NCAA tournament].
So while he enjoys thinking about the next level, his focus is on the high school scene for now. He made an immediate impact for Hilton as a seventh grader in 2011-12, racking up a 35-3 record at 99 pounds with his only setbacks coming against All-Staters Jon Haas of Spencerport and Bryan Lantry of Wayne.
As an eighth grader, he avenged those losses to Haas, bumping up to 106 pounds to defeat the Spencerport grappler 3-2. [Haas took third at the state tournament at that weight].
So, how does Diakomihalis improve upon an undefeated, state championship season?
“I’ve gotten bigger and I think I’ve become more explosive,” he said.
Diakomihalis said he may start out at 113 this year, with the current plan to drop to the 106-pound class after Christmas. But while his weight will be different than last year, his goals are similar.
“I’m definitely looking to win states again,” he said. “That will always be a goal. But I also want to win big tournaments on the national level. I’ll be in the high school division of the Super 32 this year, which is huge. My goal is to win that and then after the season win at FloNationals too.”
If he does all of those things, people around him will likely celebrate. And like in Albany in February, Diakomihalis may then take just a few minutes to relax.