When Yianni vanished in thin air against Amouzad

By Vinay Siwach

CORALVILLE, Iowa (January 10) -- If one had to go through the competitions in 2022 and pick the moves to make a highlight reel, not many would come to mind.

Meiirzhan SHERMAKHANBET (KAZ) with a 360 degree at the Asian Championships, Jasurbek ORTIKBOEV (UZB) wonderous hand spinning in the 55kg bronze bout at the World Championships, Kyle DAKE (USA) thumping Sagar JAGLAN (IND) at the World Championships and Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL) pulling off the suplex on Jacarra WINCHESTER in Istanbul.

But Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA) triumphed all towards the end of the year.

"I tore my MCL watching this," Jordan BURROUGHS (USA), a six time world champ, wrote on UWW's Instagram.

At the World Cup, Diakomihalis was wrestling world champion Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) at 65kg in the final. It was a rematch from the World Championships final which Amouzad won. Both wrestlers knew each other's style. But the pressure was on Diakomihalis to pull one back. Amouzad had built a 2-0 lead at the break before Diakomihalis answered with a takedown in the second period to lead on criteria. The crowd was behind the local star, pushing him as Amouzad tried to find his underhooks.

Before going to Diakomihalis' explanation of the move, the 65kg wrestler has been known as someone who is more than the conventional way. He has got scrambles that can upset his opponent's rhythm, scores points from unfavorable positions and makes the viewers gasp in awe. The U.S. wrestling circles in always abuzz about the craft of Yianni.

Amouzad, like most Iran wrestlers, has a strong underhook. He controlled the World Championships final with it and even shut Diakomihalis down with it. He grips it so tight that most wrestlers fail to find an opening for six minutes. But Diakomihalis had already done that once.

The wrestlers were in the center for a restart after Diakomihalis scored a takedown. Amouzad was just about to get his underhook when the Xtreme Arena erupted. At 3:30 in the bout, Amouzad tries to settle, pushing forward. He isn't fully committed to it yet and that's when Diakomihalis goes low and pulls off a duck under like no other. It was lightning quick. Amouzad did not know what hit him. It seemed he was trying to lean on Diakomihalis but the American vanished. Amouzad tamely gave up a takedown for two points.

"One of the things that we talked about is that Amouzad wrestles really hard and pushes a lot, really hard," Diakomihalis said. "We were trying to think about different ways that I can wrestle when he's pushing me and we were playing around with a bunch of different techniques, maybe like a fireman's carry, or a duck under, or a single, a bunch of different things that you could do."

But Diakomihalis did not hit the conventional moves that he was working on. He relied on a move that he was always good at.

"When I was younger I used to hit duck-under a lot," he said. "Then I got away from it just because they're hard to hit.

"In the match, Amouzad pressured me and just that the pressure felt right and I hit it. My muscle memory took over and hit it and timed it really well. He didn't have his hook super tight, he was pushing really hard and then I hit my duck-under and it came out very clean."

It was so clean that there was no defense from Amouzad. He accepted that he has been outplayed by his opponent and got into a par terre position so as to not give up any more points.

"A lot of people around said that was so cool and that was good," he said. "So I liked it, I thought it was really good and we worked a lot of technique and we also wrestled really hard, so it's really cool when all of the work that we do, comes out in the match and you wrestle well.

Diakomihalis did everything right in the bout but Amouzad showed by he is the world champion in just his second year as a senior. The 20-year-old won 5-4 despite Diakomihalis' brilliance on the mat. Diakomihalis respects Amouzad's quick adjustment when he tried hitting the same move a minute later.

"That time he felt it and he got up to his feet and ran out of the way," he said. "Somebody who is very skilled, when you hit a move, they'll recognize what happened and make an adjustment. His adjustment was that instead of leaning on me, he got up and ran away. That's his adjustment to stop my move. So now it's up to me to figure out what I'm going to do next."

Diakomihalis has now got two chances to wrestle Amouzad and both are primed to be 65kg new blood. The bout in Belgrade ended 13-8 in Amouzad's favor with him controlling the bout for most of the time. However, his American opponent did not let the same happen in Iowa and made it much closer as the 5-4 scoreline suggests.

The two can now meet at the 2023 World Championships, again in Belgrade, which will also offer Paris Olympics quotas. Diakomihalis has already taken lessons from the two meetings against Amouzad.

"In the World Championships match, he scored from when I was underneath him, maybe 3 or 4 times," he said. "We had to really work on my wrestling when he has an underhook and I'm underneath, which was a big change. In the world finals, I shot a lot of really bad shots very far away and it allowed him to get to his underhook, allowed to reshoot and he controlled the match from that. That was really when it got away from me in the second period.

"If you look at the world Cup match, I was able to like keep my composure. I didn't take any really sloppy shots. Everything was a little cleaner and I was able to get in there, putting some pressure on him. I think the biggest difference was in the World Championships, he was able to pressure and control. The whole match was underhook and I couldn't really do anything. At the World Cup, I was able to stay out of the hook and I could put a lot of pressure on him with my hand-fighting. I got a little more patient and got a little bit smarter in how to wrestle in those underhook positions."

There were a few moments when Diakomihalis could have scored more points. When he scored the first takedown, he tried to transition into a quick gut wrench but could not get the turn. Or when he kept trying to score a point to win on criteria but Amouzad would keep him locked.

"When I scored that takedown, he bellied out quickly and I got a position where I could have gotten my gut wrench and he did a good job defending," he said. "I just think moving forward, I need to develop my par terre so that whenever I get taken I can quickly get to my gut wrench before he can get ready to defend.

"We still spent more of the match in underhook than I would have liked. I need to get better at hand-fighting and pushing him, not letting him stand, underhook and waste time. I need to start to clear that and create more offense. This match was a lot better than the last one. Now I have to go back and keep working and then hopefully the next one will be even better."

Diakomihalis also feels that he needs to prepare for everyone at 65kg and not just Amouzad as every opponent comes with a different style. And with the 2024 Olympics coming closer, he would be happy to wrestle more internationally and be ready for the World Championships.

"These upper body throws, I don't usually feel against people in America," he said. "As I continue to wrestle against these international opponents, I need to be a more complete wrestler, not just in America. We do a lot of shooting and reattacks but with these [international] guys, they wrestle a lot of upper body ties. I need to be able to feel those as well and get really proficient. I want to be able to wrestle against any style."