Freshman Yianni Diakomihalis became the 19th Cornellian to win his bracket at the Cliff Keen Invitational by defeating Northern Iowa's Josh Alber, 8-2. Alber is the same wrestler Diakomihalis is pictured competing against above.

Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Senior Photographer

Freshman Yianni Diakomihalis became the 19th Cornellian to win his bracket at the Cliff Keen Invitational by defeating Northern Iowa's Josh Alber, 8-2. Alber is the same wrestler Diakomihalis is pictured competing against above.

December 4, 2017

Diakomihalis Makes Noise With Cliff Keen Title as Wrestling Finishes 8th at Las Vegas

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You may not know his name or how to spell it yet, but Yianni Diakomihalis is making it hard for that to stay a reality just a few competitions into his young collegiate career.

Out west over the weekend, the true freshman took home first place in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, helping Cornell wrestling finish eighth in the team race. For the 10th straight year, the Red crowned at least one champion in the tournament and finished in the top eight.

Joining Diakomihalis on the podiums were juniors No. 18 Jon Jay Chavez (165) and heavyweight Jeramy Sweany, both claiming eighth place in their respective weight classes.

In the 141 class, Diakomihalis showed that despite his inexperience at the college level, he can handle some of the top wrestlers in the nation. In the semifinals, No. 12 Diakomihalis upset Wyoming’s All-American No. 3 Bryce Meredith with a 4-2 sudden victory decision.

“I don’t believe anyone on our staff was surprised in the slightest by Yianni’s performance,” said head coach Rob Koll.

With 38 seconds remaining in the third period, Diakomihalis appeared to have completed the go-ahead takedown but was overturned after review, sending the match into sudden victory overtime.

Nonetheless, he was able to win the match with 22 seconds remaining, earning him a spot in the finals against Northern Iowa’s No. 13 Josh Alber, who had already fallen victim to Diakomihalis in the Red’s season-opening dual meet against the Panthers.

Yet again, the young grappler took care of business against Alber in an 8-2 decision to earn his Las Vegas title and become Cornell’s 19th Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational champion in program history.

“He is without a doubt the most focused athlete who has ever been a part of the Cornell wrestling family,” Koll said of his freshman. “This is a more impressive statement when you consider how many great and focused wrestlers who have graced our program.”

With one first-place finish and a pair of eighth-place winners, Cornell finished eighth in the team race against some of the country’s top programs, many of whose wrestlers outpaced Cornell’s grapplers to keep them off the podium.

All-American junior No. 9 Brandon Womack (174) failed to get past the third round when he lost to No. 16 C.J. Brucki of Central Michigan in a close 9-8 decision. In addition, freshman No. 10 Max Dean came up short in the quarterfinals against Virginia Tech’s No. 6 Zack Zavatsky in a 9-5 decision.

“For the most part we wrestled typical of a team that has a great deal of talented athletes who lack experience,” Koll said. “The guys would knock off a great opponent only to fall a match or two later. We need to gain consistency and the best way to accomplish this is through competition.”

The Red will have some time away from competition due to finals before a dual meet at Buffalo on Dec. 18.

Until then, Koll remains pleased with what he has seen from his team in the young 2017-18 campaign and is perhaps just as eager as his student-athletes for exams to be over with.

“Not a bad first semester,” Koll said, “but I am even more excited to see how the team matures in the second and most important half of the season.”