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March 17, 2018

Yianni Diakomihalis

Cleveland, Ohio

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the 2018 NCAA Division I national champion at 141 pounds, Yianni Diakomihalis, from Cornell. Questions?

Q. I've witnessed when watching you win four state titles and now won an NCAA title. And I remember correctly when you were in eighth grade you won an overtime ride-out. I've noticed throughout the years one thing I think -- the common denominator of all of your victories and championships is your poise. How do you maintain the poise in these tight matches time and time again?
YIANNI DIAKOMIHALIS: It's all about belief, in my opinion. I know my coaches have infinite confidence in me. And I know every time I step out there, I have a lot of scoring potential, a lot of ways I can score. So it's all just coming from that confidence that no matter what situation you're in, you can go get one. You can keep them off you. So you should never have fear if you believe in yourself.

Q. Are you able to see an aerial view of what's going on in your match? Because it seems like you're able to just see what's going on in your head and then execute what's happening. How do you visualize what you're going to execute?
YIANNI DIAKOMIHALIS: It's just years of practicing and training and repetition, you know. Kind of going back to what I was saying earlier, just if you're confident in what's going on and obviously you have to be aware. But if you're aware of what's going on, then you know you'll always have an opportunity to score. And that awareness makes it look like you're seeing ahead. But really it's just a good sense of body awareness.

Q. You never seem to get rattled no matter what the situation. The other day you made a comment, you were in the room, you practice -- 2-1, 30 seconds to go, 3-1, that kind of thing. But you always seem to keep your composure whether you're nine up or losing 3-1, 3-2. A true freshman, that composure is unbelievable for a young man who is just a true freshman. I know your coaches do a great job with you, but you just seem so calm. What do you attribute to that?
YIANNI DIAKOMIHALIS: I put myself in that situation every day since I was 10 years old. I've always played the game you're down by one, you gotta go get one.

So, you know, that composure comes with a lot of practice. And my one match I lost this year, I had a 6-3 lead and 100 percent blew it. Didn't get tired. Just failed.

So we're going to address both sides, being up by one, up by three, up by five, down by one, down by three, down by five.

And just constant repetition. My coaches, Mike Grey, constantly putting me in danger, I think that's, you're so familiar with it that when it becomes reality, it's nothing new.

Q. What's going through your head when you're losing in the closing seconds of the third period? You hit that big move and get two in back points.
YIANNI DIAKOMIHALIS: I can't believe I hit that on him. It's one of those moves that I've hit all through high school. And I kind of got away from it because guys were so aware of it. But at the same time, as soon as he saw it, it was, like, oh, it's going to be there.

I can't believe it's going to be there. It's coming, it's coming. And I just gave a little bit. He turned his head into me and I'm, like, oh, my God. I locked that out, got two in backs. And that was it.

So it's just kind of what you're talking about staying composed, being able to recognize that you have a position that you could win or you could lose, and learning how to capitalize.

Q. I know you've been thinking about this moment all year. When you did finally get that win is that how you envisioned it?
YIANNI DIAKOMIHALIS: I mean, I got pretty amped up in my quarters and semis, but this was so different. It was like everything went quiet. It's like a movie scene, like, everything goes quiet. You could hear cheers in the background and I just locked eyes with Mike.

And it's, like, he's done so much for me and sacrificing so much for me and helping me get so much better, that I was just like, "We did it." And it's really a happy moment.

Q. Take us through kind of quarters, semifinals, obviously knock out two-time national champ in the quarters, get revenge in the semis, and then obviously you win a national title.
YIANNI DIAKOMIHALIS: I couldn't have pictured anything like this. The brackets came out. The bracket, when they came out, it was exactly how I thought it was. But it was like just seeing it it was, all right, this is going to be tough.

And wrestled high on the quarters, get a dramatic win there. I get a little banged up in that match. Now I'm like, I've got this guy, he's beaten me. I'm not feeling great. Get through it. I got Mike Grey in my ear: Hey, you got it; don't let it faze you; you're trying hard. Get through that one in overtime.

Now in the finals, you've got Meredith, guy who you beat in Vegas in overtime, who a -- great scrambler, great mat wrestler. I knew it was going to be another tough one for me. And, to be honest with you, I thought I was just going to win. I'm like, man, the way this tournament has been going, eventually I'm just going to like have one that's not exciting.

So it's, like, so down by two, maybe I was down by three, I don't remember. Or one. I don't even -- I'm losing. And it's like, oh, you squeezed that one out again. Like wow.

At some point it goes from getting lucky, I think, to just being like the guys who can find a way to win are going to win. And I just think I was able to find a way to win in every one of those matches. That's it.


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