2x NCAA National Champ – Yianni Interviewed by NUWAY Combat

2x NCAA National Champ – Yianni Interviewed by NUWAY Combat

June 13, 2021

With every elite athlete, what you see as a fan is the result of countless hours of physical and psychological preparation. There’s years and often decades of training and hard work which lay the foundation for elite level success.

However, even those who put in the time and work may never reach the top 1% of their sport. It’s a reality that makes winning world & NCAA championships even more special.

Yianni Diakomihalis is a young superstar in this sport. From cadet world championships as a teenager to multiple NCAA titles with a few years of eligibility left to go, he is the epitome of what every young, passionate wrestler dreams of becoming.

In this piece, one of our NUWAY staff members and former collegiate coach and Michigan State wrestlers, Arsen Aleksanyan, sits down for a Q&A with Yianni. Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy.

Yianni Diakomihalis & Arsen Aleksanyan

Arsen: I’m so excited to be able to talk with you. I really want to ask you questions that I have personally wanted to talk to you about for a while, now. Thank you for doing this.

Yianni: No problem, I’m glad to do this.

Arsen: You won two cadet World Championships in high school. Then you didn’t wrestle Freestyle again for a couple of years before winning Junior Nationals. How did you make that happen?

Yianni: I wrestled Cadet worlds as a junior in high school. My senior year, I broke both of my elbows and couldn’t wrestle. Then my freshman year in college, I tore my ACL and couldn’t wrestle again. When the US Open was coming around after my sophomore year, I was really excited to wrestle freestyle. I put a lot of time into that.

Arsen: You had the toughest bracket at the US Open, you did moves like flipping, moving through the legs and almost inventing new Freestyle moves…How did that happen?

Yianni: Growing up, my father always had us train for the “worst case scenario”. It was about being able to find your way out of anything. No excuses, you have a mentality that you are never out of it. You always have a chance to get out of it and make the situation better for you. There’s a certain point where guys are 90% taken down and they give up… But there’s still a 10% chance you won’t and I never forget about that 10%. I won’t give up.

Arsen: How do you get so confident flipping around and not exposing your back?

Yianni: A lot of stuff I’ve never drilled before, but it’s a feel. I learn moves, then try to use that, and think about how I can make it work for me. It’s just about being creative, never being afraid to make a mistake and trying something new. It’s trying to be inventive and figure out a way to win the situation.

Arsen: When you tore your ACL, was it a complete tear?

Yianni: Yes, a complete tear.

Arsen: I had tore my ACL in college, but I had time to train with it in order to adjust. How did you just adjust on the fly?

Yianni: I had to worry about what I could do versus what I couldn’t do. They taped my knee up, I drilled a little bit, and I couldn’t shoot that well. I had a hard time pushing off my leg. I understood what I could and couldn’t do. In the end, it was a big National Championship, I couldn’t make an excuse and say I was hurt and let myself lose. No excuse, no one is going to feel sorry for me or make an excuse for me. I had to wrestle like I was OK and just go out there and make things happen.

Arsen: You don’t seem to ever look stressed, even during those big matches. Your demeanor never changes. I have to ask, are you really not nervous or are you the world’s greatest actor? (laughs)

Yianni: If you panic while you’re wrestling, you are more likely to make a mistake and lose. Or at the very least, you are likely to not wrestle at your best. You have to focus on what you’re trying to do. If the other guy is a little nervous and I’m not, it’s an advantage for me. I believe in myself and I know I can do it.

Arsen: Going into your matches, you’re so aware of what’s going on. How do you balance being aware and staying calm?

Yianni: It’s like you have to know everything, score, time, position on the mat, etc. You can’t ever get flustered by it. Wrestling is really fast, but you want to make it slow in your mind. Everything is in slow motion in front of me. Now you can wrestle better because you’re relaxed. As soon as you start to stress too much, or let external factors bother you, you start to make mistakes because you’re not thinking about the match anymore. You’re thinking about other stuff. As soon as you let the focus deter, you make mistakes.

Arsen: The Beat the Streets experience…You wrestled the #1 guy in the world…Talk about your approach to that.

Yianni: I’m used to being in condition, but I knew Bajrang was going to be in really good shape. I knew he wasn’t going to get tired, he wasn’t going to get flustered. I knew it was going to be a big fight. He is good at making other guys flustered. they get so caught up in all the hand fighting and they get tired that way, they lose focus. I knew I couldn’t lose my focus. I had to be smart in that match and I knew I was going to get tired. I knew it was going to be a gritty, hard match. I needed to be psychologically ready.

Arsen: How strong is he?

Yianni: He is so strong! He pulls and pushes so hard. It’s like he’s doing it as hard as he can every single time.

Arsen: Thanks Yianni, I really appreciate your time and that you were willing to sit down with us.

Yianni: Thank you for having me, have a good one Arsen.