Retherford tops Diakomihalis in final World Team wrestle-off

Updated: September 3, 2019

Photo: After an independent arbitrator extended the Final X best-of-three wrestle-off for the 65-kilogram men’s World Team freestyle spot, Zain Retherford (right) defeated Yianni Diakomihalis, 2-1, Monday afternoon at Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Photo by Justin Hoch)

By Mike Willis,

Wilkes-Barre, Pa. – A packed Arnaud C. Marts Center at Wilkes University was the home of the final match of the Zain Retherford vs. Yianni Diakomihalis saga. The compelling series concluded with Retherford emerging victorious, clinching the 65 kg World Team spot with a 2-1 victory.

While Diakomihalis needed to win two-straight matches to take the World Team spot, Retherford only needed to win one match because he won the first Final X: Rutgers bout in June, 10-4. Initially he was awarded the second match at Final X: Rutgers, 6-6. However, an independent arbitrator ruled that an improper challenge occurred, and therefore the match had to be re-wrestled.

Despite the low score, the match was filled with excitement, and the gym bristled with energy. While both wrestlers received loud cheers, Retherford graduated from Benton Area High School, which is only 45 minutes from Wilkes-Barre and seemed to have a larger hometown crowd.

All of the scoring occurred in the first period. Diakomihalis earned the first point on a failed Retherford challenge. Retherford was in on a low double, and Diakomihalis tried to expose him with a chest wrap. The pair were put back on their feet, but the Penn State corner believed Retherford had either earned the takedown or exposed Diakomihalis.

Retherford scored about a minute after the failed challenge, sitting the corner on a Diakomihalis takedown attempt to take a 2-1 lead.

In the second period, the two engaged in several wild scrambles, while both wrestlers came close to scoring on numerous occasions, the situations ended in stalemates. At one point, the mat official awarded two points to Diakomihalis during a scramble, but it was white paddled and no points were awarded. The scored held, and Retherford will represent the U.S. at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan Kazakhstan later this September.

With this victory Retherford evens the series, 2-2. Diakomihalis earned victories at the U.S. Open and the Yasar Dogu in Turkey, while Retherford took both Final X matches.