Who's #1? Yianni Diakomihalis Ascends to the Top of the National Rankings at 106; 10 NYers Included in the Polls

Diakomihalis, Photo by BV

It may not be a surprise after he captured the Super 32 Challenge title in a loaded field.  But on Wednesday, it became official.  Hilton’s Yianni Diakomihalis is the top ranked wrestler in the country at 106 pounds (according to FloWrestling).

Diakomihalis defeated the now-#2 grappler, Gage Curry of Pennsylvania, in the championship match in Greensboro, North Carolina and also beat current #3, Tyler Warner of Ohio, by a 14-3 score in the semifinals at the Super 32.  He’ll look to capture his second consecutive New York state crown in 2013-14 after winning gold at 99 pounds as an eighth grader last year.

Diakomihalis is one of 10 Empire State wrestlers in the rankings, including six others in the top 10 at their respective weights. Here’s the list of New Yorkers:

Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton, Freshman, Section 5) – 1st at 106

Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville, Junior, Section 11) – 6th at 120

Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowaga, Senior, Section 6) – 5th at 138

Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich, Junior, Section 4) – 20th at 138

Louis Hernandez (Mepham, Senior, Section 8 ) – 6th at 152

Corey Rasheed (Longwood, Senior, Section 11) – 8th at 160

Burke Paddock (Warsaw, Senior, Section 5) – 9th at 160

Christian Dietrich (Greene, Sophomore, Section 4) – 14th at 182

Rich Sisti (Monsignor Farrell, Senior, CHSAA) – 15th at 220

James O’Hagan (Seaford, Senior, Section 8 ) – 8th at 285

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Longwood National Champion Corey Rasheed: Driven to Dominate in His Senior Year

Corey Rasheed said it was the “worst I’ve wrestled in a long time.”

Returning from injuries that had sidelined him for most of the summer, the Longwood star went undefeated at the Journeymen Classic to capture the 160-pound title and Most Outstanding Wrestler honors for the upperweights.  He faced a New England champion and wrestlers who took second and third at Fargo in 2013 – and won by a combined 21-5 score.

Not too shabby for his “worst.”

Rasheed, Photo by BV

“When I tell people that, they look at me funny,” he said.  “But I’m not satisfied. It’s not about the title. Most wrestlers are in competition with the kids in their weight, but I feel like I’m in competition with every wrestler. I want to be the best.”

He showed his potential to be among the best as a seventh grader when he earned a spot in the state finals at 96 pounds.  After a fifth place finish as a freshman, Rasheed returned to the title bout in Albany as a sophomore in 2012, before taking silver for the second time.  A few weeks later, he again made the championship round of a big event – the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals in Virginia Beach, where he took second place at 145 pounds.

“When I lost the match [to Minnesota’s Larry Bomstad] in Virginia Beach, it felt like the state finals all over again,” Rasheed said.  “I knew I couldn’t let it happen again.”

He made sure in 2012-13 with a season of pure dominance at 152 pounds.  The Suffolk County standout went 34-0 with 22 pins. Only two opponents managed a regular decision.

But there was only one thing on his mind.

“All season, I was thinking about states,” he said. “I know I shouldn’t have, but during counties, I was thinking about states.  Then, during the first rounds of the state tournament, I was thinking about the finals.”

He punched his ticket to the finals with a technical fall, pin and a 5-0 shutout at the Times Union Center. In his third time wrestling on Saturday night at the biggest New York tournament of the year, he was ready.

“I was kind of numb at the moment,” he said. “Everything seemed so slow. I wasn’t nervous; I’d been there so many times before.  I was just thinking I had to win.  If I lost again in the finals, it would have been devastating.  I had to win.”

He did.  And he did it quickly.  Just 56 seconds into the title bout, Rasheed pinned Great Neck South’s Chris Koo.

“I didn’t care about getting the pin in the first period,” Rasheed said. “At the end of the day, I was just happy to get my hand raised there in the finals.  When I looked at the crowd and saw my friends and family hugging each other, it was a great moment.”

Appropriately, the fall came from the move Rasheed executed with perfection all year long – the cradle.

“I’ve been using that cradle since I started wrestling as a young kid,” he said. “People don’t see that it’s so easy to hit from all different angles.  It’s something that comes natural to me.  I work on other things – I don’t practice the cradle anymore.”

He may not practice it, but he certainly used it a lot, including at Virginia Beach where he returned to the national finals. This time, he came out on top, defeating Alabama’s Brandon Womack 9-6 in the 152-pound title bout to finish a perfect season as a state champion and a national champion.

The national rankers noticed, even if Rasheed wasn’t paying much attention.

Photo by BV

“I’m not a strong believer in rankings,” he said. “It’s an honor to be there and I want to be #1 one day, but I haven’t checked them in a long time. I don’t even know where I am anymore.”

(He is currently listed as the #56 senior in the nation by Intermat and #48 by FloWrestling.  At 160 pounds, Flo has Rasheed as #8 in the land).

College coaches probably have a good idea of where Rasheed stands in the rankings.

“I have a group of schools that I’ve been talking to,” Rasheed said, preferring to leave out the names. “I can’t pick yet because I haven’t visited places so I wouldn’t be making a good decision. I’m not in a rush to commit, but I am excited to wrestle in college.”

Rasheed’s familiarity with college wrestling has been increasing recently.

“I’m unorthodox when it comes to wrestling because I don’t really watch wrestling much,” he said.  “My favorite sport to watch is basketball. But a lot of college coaches that got in touch with me compared me to some guys and I started to watch them. I realized that I’m getting better just from watching. Ed Ruth is one that a lot of the coaches mentioned.  The coaches said we do a lot of the same things in every position.  Other than that, my favorite wrestler to watch is probably Jordan Burroughs – he’s phenomenal; so fast and explosive.”

Many fans have used those adjectives to describe Rasheed as well.  (The vast majority of coaches and observers we spoke to all around the state said Rasheed is New York’s top senior). He named numerous people who have helped him develop over the years, but at the top of that list was his brother Malik, a multiple-time state placer for Longwood.

“Malik has definitely helped me so much,” he said. “He should have been a two or three time state champ, but he had bad luck with tearing cartilage in his rib and so many other things people don’t know about. He’s my biggest influence. Last year, he came to the room and wrestled with me. We really go at it – there are days he beats me up and days I beat him up.  We’ll leave the room bleeding.  At times, we fight because it gets that competitive, but he’s helped me so much.”

That spirit translates to basketball, which Rasheed said he plays just about every day, “even in the snow.”  And despite all his accomplishments, his intensity hasn’t waned at all on the mat.

“I have more of a desire to win now than ever before,” Rasheed said. “In seventh, eighth, ninth grade, I was only thinking about high school wrestling and what I wanted to accomplish there.  But now, I’m thinking about college and the Olympics.  A lot of kids who start young burn out because it’s a tough sport to dedicate yourself to.  It’s not really a sport; it’s a lifestyle.  For me, the feeling of not getting your hand raised is terrible, more now than ever.”

Rasheed doesn’t plan on having that “terrible” feeling this year.  He said he will certify at 154 pounds, giving him the option of being at 152 again or moving up to 160.

“My goals are to win leagues, counties, states and nationals,” he said. “I’m still deciding between Virginia Beach and FloNationals and I know they’re crazy hard tournaments.  But I don’t want to just win; I want to dominate. My goal is to dominate the whole year.”

He pretty much did that as an eleventh grader.  And while he’s proud of what he did in 2012-13, he’s not dwelling on last season.

“I was definitely happy about my junior year,” he said. “Once I graduate, I can look back and say I won states and nationals that year.  But two weeks after nationals, I moved on. I don’t reminisce too much.  I just think about what’s next.  The most important time for me is right now.”

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Corey Rasheed wanted to thank his brother, Malik, his uncle Greg, his mother and his family for their support.  He also wanted to thank coaches Mike Picozzi and Ethan Prifte for their huge influence on him over the years.  In addition, he mentioned the significant contributions of coaches Darren Goldstein, Steve Hromada, Nick Garone and Nick Hall.  He couldn’t name everyone, but thanked everyone who has helped him and supported him along the way.

Videos from the Journeymen Classic: See State Champions and Finalists Battle

Numerous state finalists and champions took the mat at the Journeymen Classic on Sunday.  Here are a few videos of some top notch New York wrestlers from the event:

(For results, see here.  For a recap/summary, see this link).

Rematch of the 2013 99-pound state final (this time at 113) – Yianni Diakomihalis vs. Vito Arujau

 

National (and state) champion Corey Rasheed (Longwood) vs. Fargo Finalist Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa)

 

Nationally ranked (and state finalist) Christian Dietrich vs. Araad Sarrami of California

 

State champion Adis Radoncic vs. state finalist Steve Schneider (170)

 

Nassau County battle: State champion Kyle Quinn vs. state finalist Vito Arujau (113 third place bout)

 

All-American (NYS Third) Travis Passaro vs. State Placer Mike D’Angelo (Rematch of Section 11 finals)

 

Two State Finalists Wrestle at Journeymen: Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam vs. Frank Garcia of Norwich

 

 

Lapi vs. Garcia, Photo by BV

Permission to post videos granted by Journeymen.

 

Journeyman Classic Breakdown: Thoughts and Observations on Sunday's Competition

The Journeymen Classic attracted participants from more than 20 states with top notch talent across the weights. Given that, it wasn’t surprising to see college coaches all over Niskayuna High School, watching the action throughout the day. With six mats in two different gyms, we didn’t watch everything that took place, but here are some thoughts on the event:

(To see videos from the event, click this link).

Corey Rasheed, Frank Popolizio, Yianni Diakomihalis, Nick Piccininni; Courtesy of Adam Burgos

1. Not surprisingly, the undefeated state champions looked like …. undefeated state champions. The Most Outstanding Wrestler honors were awarded to Yianni Diakomihalis (113), Nick Piccininni (120) and Corey Rasheed (160).  All were impressive in going unbeaten and capturing titles.  Diakomihalis faced a tough field (see #2) but continued his winning ways, while Piccininni was in control throughout, including a 10-2 major in the finals against Florida’s Radley Gillis, an NHSCA National champion. Rasheed said that he didn’t feel 100% in his return from injuries, but you wouldn’t know it, as he topped New England champion Andrew Labrie and Fargo All-Americans Jesse Porter and Christian Stackhouse by a combined score of 21-5.  Fellow unbeaten New York gold medalist Rich Sisti cruised to the 225 title, while Louis Hernandez did the same at 152.  And Christian Dietrich, who joins the previously mentioned Empire State grapplers in the national rankings (at 170), went up to 195 pounds and still was in charge all the way through, with a technical fall, a pin and a 12-3 combined score in his other matches.

2. Any time a returning state champion finishes fourth, you know the weight is tough. That was the case at 113 pounds where Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn was defeated early in the day by East Islip’s Jesse Dellavecchia (fourth in New York at 99 in 2013).  Later on, fellow Nassau County grappler and NYS finalist Vito Arujau topped Quinn for bronze, 3-0.  That came after some other great bouts in the bracket, including a state championship rematch between Diakomihalis and Arujau. It’s too early to say whether all of those wrestlers will be at 113 during the high school season, but it was certainly fun to watch this weekend.

3. Those weren’t the only championship performances for New York. At the NUWAY Nationals on the Jersey Shore this summer, Matteo DeVincenzo won the title in a field that included New York placers such as Kelan McKenna and Theo Powers.  That was once again the case on Sunday, as the Port Jefferson state runner up captured a 106 “A” bracket full of heralded competitors, including McKenna and Powers as well as Super 32 Middle School silver medalist Peter Pappas and All-Stater Vinny Vespa.  In Sunday’s finals, DeVincenzo defeated Section 2’s Josh Logiudice, a state qualifier who will be a tough matchup for anyone in his senior season.  Logiudice picked up quality victories over Powers and Vespa.

And how about Connor Calkins of Alfred-Almond?  At the Times Union Center in February, he bested returning state finalist and top seed Alex Soutiere in the opening round of the state tournament and made the medal stand, grabbing fifth.  It looks like he’s ready to go even higher in 2014, as he won the 285 weight at Journeymen with a 6-3 triumph over national champion Jesse Webb of Vermont.

It would be fair to say it’s been a good week for Travis Passaro.  First, he committed to continue his career at Hofstra.  In Albany, he celebrated by winning a challenging weight which included state champion Alex Delacruz, New York placer Mike D’Angelo and All-Americans from out of state such as Kevin Jack and Zach Valley. He cruised in the title bout, 6-0, over Payton Shuford.

4. Several other wrestlers made statements.  One was Jakob Restrepo, who topped a pair of New York silver medalists – Frank Garcia and Brandon Lapi, as well as Pennsylvania state placer Jalen Palmer on his way to the finals in the 145 “A” bracket.  He lost in sudden victory there to New Jersey’s Gary Dinmore, one of the top 100 seniors in the nation according to Intermat.  Restrepo’s performance comes after a successful offseason in which he earned All-America honors in Cadet Freestyle at Fargo and won the Super 32 qualifier at Shippensburg. Another second placer, Sam Ward of Locust Valley, looked good on Sunday, beating multi-time New Jersey placer Joe Trovato as well as Florida medalist Anthony Petrone on his way to the 140 “A” title bout, where he was topped by NHSCA National champion Clay Walker of South Carolina.  He’ll be a contender in Division 2 this year after taking fifth last season at 132.

5. There were plenty of standout showings outside of the “A” brackets as well.  Hector and Tito Colom, who racked up significant victory totals at Dunkirk High last year, breezed through the competition on Sunday, winning all of their matches by bonus points on the way to crowns in the 106 and 113 “B” brackets, respectively.  Middleweights Jimmy Leach (140), Skylar Kropman (145) and Trevor Hoffmier (152) were all unbeaten. Leach went to the Suffolk County finals a year ago and Kropman placed at the Eastern States in 2013.  Both look ready for a breakthrough year as do returning state qualifiers Anthony DePrez (152) and Collin Pittman (182).  Ryan Kromer (160) has already made an appearance on the medal stand in Albany and looks prepared to do it again after beating fellow All-State wrestler Konstantin Parfiryev and qualifier Connor Lawrence at the Journeymen Classic. Jaison White, who won big over the weekend, also went undefeated at the Pop & Flo event in the spring and looks to be someone to keep an eye on at 170.

Who from New York is in the Updated National Rankings?

Last week, Flowrestling released updated national rankings.  10 New Yorkers are included, with five grapplers positioned in the top 10 in their weight classes.  The highest ranking for an Empire State wrestler is fourth – Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville at 120.

The New Yorkers ranked are:

7th at 106 pounds: Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton, Section 5, Freshman)

4th at 120 pounds: Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville, Section 11, Junior)

19th at 132 pounds: Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich, Section 4, Junior)

6th at 138 pounds: Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowaga, Section 6, Senior)

12th at 152 pounds: Louis Hernandez (Mepham, Section 8, Senior)

9th at 160 pounds: Corey Rasheed (Longwood, Section 11, Senior)

11th at 160 pounds: Burke Paddock (Warsaw, Section 5, Senior)

11th at 170 pounds: Christian Dietrich (Greene, Section 4, Sophomore)

15th at 220 pounds: Rich Sisti (Monsignor Farrell, CHSAA, Senior)

8th at 285 pounds: James O’Hagan (Seaford, Section 8, Senior)

 

Nick Piccininni, Photo by BV

Who From New York is in the Updated National Rankings?

Last week, Flowrestling released the post-Fargo national rankings.  10 New Yorkers are currently included, with two grapplers positioned sixth in their weight classes — Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville at 120 and James O’Hagan of Seaford at 285.  The Empire State grapplers have combined for nine state titles at this point in their careers.

The New Yorkers ranked are:

8th at 106 pounds: Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton, Section 5, Freshman)

6th at 120 pounds: Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville, Section 11, Junior)

17th at 132 pounds: Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich, Section 4, Junior)

8th at 138 pounds: Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowoga, Section 6, Senior)

10th at 152 pounds: Louis Hernandez (Mepham, Section 8, Senior)

11th at 160 pounds: Corey Rasheed (Longwood, Section 11, Senior)

13th at 160 pounds: Burke Paddock (Warsaw, Section 5, Senior)

9th at 170 pounds: Christian Dietrich (Greene, Section 4, Sophomore)

15th at 220 pounds: Rich Sisti (Monsignor Farrell, CHSAA, Senior)

6th at 285 pounds: James O’Hagan (Seaford, Section 8, Senior)

Who from New York is Currently in the 2013-14 National Rankings?

 
 
Flowrestling has been posting updated high school rankings, removing wrestlers from the graduating Class of 2013 to give a glimpse of what next season could look like. Many New York grapplers made the cut, including eight state champions from February of 2013. Ward Melville’s Nick Piccininni is the highest ranked of the Empire State representatives, sitting fifth at 120 pounds.

To see which competitors have been included in the national top 20, see below:

Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton, Section 5) – 11th at 106

Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville, Section 11) – 5th at 120

Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich, Section 4) – 19th at 132

Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowaga, Section 6) – 10th at 138

Louis Hernandez (Mepham, Section 8 ) – 9th at 152

Corey Rasheed (Longwood, Section 11) – 10th at 160

Burke Paddock (Warsaw, Section 5) – 11th at 160

Christian Dietrich (Greene, Section 4) – 9th at 170

Adis Radoncic (RKA, PSAL) – 17th at 170

Reggie Williams (Johnson City, Section 4) – 16th at 195

Rich Sisti (Monsignor Farrell, CHSAA) – 16th at 220

James O’Hagan (Seaford, Section 8 ) – 7th at 285

Although not in the latest edition, two-time state champion William Koll of Lansing and 2013 third placer Travis Passaro of Eastport South Manor were recently in the rankings as well.

Rasheed, Photo by BV