A three-time NCAA champion and 2021 senior world team member, Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis has built himself into one of the most creative, versatile collegiate wrestlers on the mat. He's capable of scoring points through fundamentals and flash. He can scramble with elite folkstyle athletes, but he also has the speed and the flexibility to separate himself on the international stage. Fresh off another national title this March, Diakomihalis is now set for a shot at a second world team in the style he prefers: freestyle.
Diakomihalis is one of seven Spartan RTC wrestlers and four 2022 NCAA champions seeded ahead of this weekend’s senior world team trials just outside Iowa City in Coralville, Iowa, and this lineup of stars will be expected to put on a show. Here’s everything you need to know about the current and upcoming college athletes in particular wrestling in the 2022 senior world team trials.
First, a quick breakdown of the world team qualifications and trials schedule:
Athletes can qualify for the Senior World Team trials in one of the following ways:
- Top-four finisher at 2020 Olympic Trials or 2021 World Team Trials
- Medalist at the 2022 Senior Pan American Championships
- 2021 U23 world championships or junior world championships
- Highest-placing U.S. athlete yet to qualify at the 2022 Bill Farrell International
- Top-seven finisher at the U.S. Open or highest- \placing finisher at the May 2022 Northeast Regional yet to qualify (with the exception of the Greco World Team Trials in which the top six finishers in men's freestyle and Greco will qualify)
- Highest-placing medalist at the May 2022 Northeast Regional who has yet to qualify
Additionally, men’s freestyle athletes can qualify by finishing in the top three at the NCAA tournament, while women’s freestyle athlete can qualify by finishing first or second at the NAIA championships, the NCWWC, or winning any UWW Senior event champion from Oct. 1, 2021 to May 1, 2022. Men’s Greco-Roman athletes can also qualify via a top-five finish at DI NCAAs or a top-three finish at the NCAA championships for DII and DIII as well as NAIAs or NJCAAs. Champions from any UWW Senior event champion from Oct. 1, 2021 to May 1, 2022 will also qualify for women's freestyle world team trials while any UWW event medalist from Oct.1, 2021 to May 1, 2022 will qualify for Greco World Team Trials.
Watch Yianni Diakomihalis win his third NCAA title in Detroit in March:
Returning 2021 World Team medalists will earn a bye through World Team trials and will await the winners of the World Team Trials tournament in their respective weights at Final X, a competition to be held on either June 3 in Stillwater, Okla., or June 8 in New York City, depending on the weight class schedule. If there is no world team medalist at a given weight, a 2020 Olympic medalist at the weight can earn a bye to Final X.
Senior World Team Trials Schedule & Structure:
In men’s freestyle, the winner of a best-of-three finals match at 57kg, 61kg, 74kg, 79kg, 86kg, 92kg and 97kg at senior world team trials will advance to Final X, a final competition where the Senior World Team Trials champion will compete against last year’s U.S. senior world team member in a best-of-three series to earn the 2022 World Team spot. The semifinal winners at 65kg, 70kg and 125kg will advance to Final X where they will wrestle each other in a best-of-three series for the World Team spot.
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In women’s freestyle, the winner of a best-of-three finals match at 50kg, 55kg, 57kg, 62kg, 65kg and 68kg will advance to Final X and face 2021 world medalists Sarah Hildebrandt, Jenna Burkert, Helen Maroulis, Kayla Miracle, Forrest Molinari and Tamyra Mensah-Stock, respectively. The semifinal winners at 53kg, 59kg, 72 and 76kg will wrestle each other in a best-of-three series for the World Team spot.
In Greco-Roman, only G'Angelo Hancock at 97kg earned a bye to Final X, meaning the remaining nine weight classes will also wrestle through the semifinals at World Team Trials, with the top two wrestlers in each of those weights competing in their final best two-out-of-three matches during Final X. The 97kg bracket, however, will be wrestled all the way through at World Team Trials with the winner taking on Hancock in June.
Now, here is a look at the field and the key storylines related to the top college athletes competing in the World Team Trials.
Can a current college wrestler help break the U.S. men’s medal curse at 65kg?
The United States men’s freestyle team has had historic success internationally in recent years, winning the 2017 world team title and taking home five medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The only weight without American hardware? 65kg. The United States has not won an international medal at the weight since Bill Zadick won at 66kg in 2006, but Cornell’s Diakomihalis would like to be the one to break that streak. After beating Penn RTC’s Joey McKenna in a best two-out-of-three match series at last year’s World Team Trials, Diakomihalis went 1-1 at the 2021 World Championships, beating Colin Realbuto but dropping to Vazgen Tevanyan and leaving Oslo medal-less.
Watch Diakomihalis and McKenna wrestle-off for the 2021 World Team spot at 65kg
This year though, Diakomihalis has the potential to change that result. His first goal: make the world team. He’ll come into the World Team Trials with the No. 2 seed, after Kendric Maple of the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club earned the top seed with his U.S. Open win. Diakomihalis and Maple have not wrestled in freestyle, and both come into the tournament with momentum with Maple excelling at the U.S. Open win and Diakomihalis riding the success of his third NCAA title. McKenna, however, will be in the mix as well, along with 2022 141-pound national champion, Nick Lee, both of whom have wins over Diakomihalis in freestyle in the last year.
College wrestling fans will also recognize the names of former NCAA champion Dean Heil, All-Americans Matthew Kolodzik, Luke Pletcher, Evan Henderson, Pat Lugo and NCAA qualifier Ian Parker in the field. Current collegiate wrestlers Beau Bartlett of Penn State, Carter Young of Oklahoma State and Josh Saunders of Cornell also add intrigue to this weight class, with Young boasting the most impressive senior-level accolades of this younger group after his third-place finish at the 2021 senior world team trials.
If a current college wrestler is going to break through and not only earn the world team spot but medal, Diakomihalis is the most likely to do so, but he’ll have to navigate a tough field and do something that no 65kg U.S. wrestler has done for over a decade to accomplish that goal.
Couldn’t be happier with my preparation for this weekend. The wind is at my back and I haven’t been this excited to compete in a long time. Let’s roll https://t.co/rmkYMJKPh8— Yianni Diakomihalis (@yiannidiako_LGR) May 16, 2022
Diakomihalis' collegiate teammate, Vito Arujau will also be looking to make his mark this weekend as one of the top active NCAA wrestlers in the field, and he'll take the mat as the No. 2 seed behind Matthew Ramos of Purdue. An experienced freestyle wrestler with a history of success, Arujau finished second at the Olympic Trials behind eventual Olympic bronze medalist and 2021 World champion Thomas Gilman, but a win at the senior world team trials this weekend would secure a rematch against Gilman himself at Final X.
Joining Arujau at 57kg from Spartan RTC is Gregory Diakomihalis, the younger brother of Yianni, who will be looking to gain more experience at this level as he prepares for potentially his first year as a starter this upcoming season. In addition to the Diakomihalis brothers and Arujau, Josh Saunders and Phillip Moomey will also represent Spartan RTC as collegiate athletes in folkstyle and Greco respectively while Cornell volunteer assistant coach and 2021 world team member Nick Gwiazdowski will also compete at 125kg. Spartan RTC has the potential to put multiple collegiate athletes on the podium this weekend, but the competition remains stiff.
The winner of 61kg will face NCAA finalist Daton Fix at Final X
Of all of the current, eligible collegiate athletes in the mix for a senior world team spot, only one, Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix, earned a bye through the senior world team trials and will be awaiting his competitor at the Final X championships later this summer. Fix, who won silver at the 2021 Senior World Team championships, has finished second in each of his three NCAA tournament appearances, dropping to Nick Suriano in 2019 and Roman Bravo-Young in 2021 and 2022. Neither of these two competitors are currently registered for 61kg at the senior world team trials. Instead, Fix's future competition will come from one of the other eight seeded athletes at the weight including 2016 NCAA champion Nico Megaludis, 2018 NCAA champion Seth Gross, four-time All-American Tyler Graff, two-time DII NCAA champion Daniel DeShazer, NCAA qualifiers Shelton Mack and Joshua Rodriguez as well as Arizona State graduate Josh Kramer and future Buckeye Jesse Mendez. The only athlete on this list set to face Fix with remaining NCAA eligibility is Mendez, but he'll have an uphill battle in this weight class if he wants a shot at the defending world silver medalist.
Rewatch Daton Fix's 2022 NCAA finals match against Roman Bravo-Young
Fix's international accolades as a collegiate athlete stand out as particularly impressive, and if he wins Final X in June against the winner of the this weekend's bracket, he'll make his third senior world team...all while still holding on to one year of collegiately eligibility. In an interview with FloWrestling, the Cowboys star said definitively that he's planning to come back and chase down his first NCAA title next year as a senior, and he looks forward to the opportunity to return the folkstyle mat for a battle with defending champ Roman Bravo-Young next March. For now though, he'll be focused on Final X and prepping for the senior world team trials winner of 61kg at the June event.
Nittany Lion Wrestling Club will look to match Penn State success at NCAAs
The Penn State Nittany Lions made headlines at the 2022 NCAA tournament with five national champions and a team title, and two members from that most recent championship team, Carter Starocci and Beau Bartlett, will now represent the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club (NLWC) in Corvallis. Bartlett will wrestle Diakomihalis & Co. in the challenging 65kg bracket while Starocci, a two-time NCAA champion, will compete in the loaded 79kg spot for the chance to take on five-time World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs at Final X.
Joining Starocci at the stacked 79kg weight class will be a long list of accomplished athletes including former NCAA champion, Penn State graduate and current Stanford assistant coach Vincenzo Joseph, along with David McFadden, the wrestler who beat Joseph in the U.S. Open finals. Again adding to the depth is two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez — an Illinois graduate with a history of exciting matches against Joseph — as well as three-time NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner Alex Dieringer.
Watch Carter Starocci win his second NCAA title against Mekhi Lewis
Throw in All-American Chance Marsteller, 2021 NCAA tournament No. 1 seed Taylor Lujan, former Final X competitor Nick Reenan and Illinois' Brayden Thomas, and 79kg might just be the most interesting weight class of the tournament. None of this, however, scares Starocci. The Penn State NCAA champion has been outspoken about his plans to beat all of these opponents, even his former teammate Joseph, on his quest to secure a match against Burroughs, and he does have wins over some of these opponents already. He's the highest seeded Nittany Lion Wrestling Club athlete with collegiate eligibility remaining, but he's far from the only athlete representing the Blue and White who is chasing a World spot.
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Additionally, Joshua Rodriguez, a North Dakota State graduate and current NLWC member will take the mat at 61kg while Ceron Francisco will represent the NLWC at 125kg.
Penn State alumni and former NCAA champions Nick Lee, Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf will also be competing at 65kg, 70kg and 74kg, and all are top contenders in their brackets. Lee, of course, will be facing the same stacked competition as Diakomihalis and Bartlett in his 65kg bracket, while Retherford will meet a mix of current and former college wrestlers up at 70kg including his former teammate and No. 11 seed Jarod Verkleeren of the Cavalier Wrestling Club. Of the wrestlers seeded at this weight, four have collegiate eligibility remaining: Doug Zapf, Michael Blockhus, Sammy Sasso and Dayne Morton. Sasso won Big Tens in 2021 and holds the best folkstyle credentials of the group, but Zapf did just beat him at the U.S. Open and will thus have the higher seed for this event.
Former NCAA champions Ryan Deakin, Jordan Oliver and Anthony Ashnault will also be looking to battle this group at the weight, as will former All-Americans Alec Pantaleo of Michigan and Tyler Berger. The current college wrestlers will be facing a series of talented senior athletes at 70kg, so breaking through and securing a semifinals bid to Final X will be tough.
Watch Nick Lee win his second NCAA title, this time against North Carolina's Kizhan Clarke:
Elite, experienced senior-level athletes also have the edge at 74kg, as Nolf holds down the top seed with 2021 NCAA champion and 2022 Iowa State All-American David Carr set to fight for an upset over the Penn State legend. This weight class is smaller than 65kg and 70kg, but Nolf leads the way, at least heading into the tournament. Former All-Americans Josh Shields and Tommy Gantt have the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, while Carr comes in at No. 4, followed closely by former NCAA qualifier Collin Purinton, George Mason senior Peter Pappas and former NCAA finalist Joey Lavallee. Carr is the current NCAA wrestler with the best shot to make noise here, but Nolf is always dangerous and could present real problems for Carr. The winner of this bracket, however, will go on to take on Olympic bronze medalist Kyle Dake at Final X, no easy task.
In addition to Jason Nolf as the No. 1 seed in the men's 74kg bracket though, the Nittany Lions also have a No. 1 seed in the women’s 62kg weight class with Jennifer Rogers leading a seven-person seeded bracket. Rogers won bronze at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov International in Bulgaria earlier this year, and she'll now be looking to make the senior world team and bring home a World Championship medal. Olympic Trials finalist and current North Carolina area wrestler Macey Kilty will be the biggest challenger at the weight, as she comes in seeded second after winning the U23 Nationals earlier this month after wins over Zoe Nowicki by fall and injury default. Kilty's resume is full of accomplishments at the age-group level, but a win at the senior world team trials would put her in position to fight for a senior-level medal. Three current college wrestlers — Andrea Schlabach, Emmily Patneaud and Sierra Brown Ton — along with former college wrestler Cierra Foster of Oklahoma City University and Alexandria Liles Army (WCAP) round out the weight, and the winner will have the privilege of taking on Olympian and World Silver medalist Kayla Miracle at Final X.
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The Nittany Lions will also have three athletes sitting out until Final X including Kyle Snyder, David Taylor and Thomas Gilman, the second of which is most interesting because of the Senior World Team Trials depth at Taylor's weight of 86kg. Former Nittany Lion NCAA champion Mark Hall holds down the top seed while Zahid Valencia, a famous 174-pound rival for Hall during his college days, has the No. 2 seed. Former All-American Pat Downey sits at No. 3 and 2021 NCAA finalist has the No. 4 spot. The following wrestlers make up the remainder of the seeded athletes at the weight: 2019 NCAA champion Drew Foster, 2022 All-American Marcus Coleman, NCAA qualifier Owen Webster, DII All-American Caden Steffen, NCAA qualifier Caleb Hopkins, Iowa State's Julien Broderson and national qualifier Andrew Morgan Spartan. While there are a number of well-known college names on this list, Hidlay has the longest resume of the active NCAA athletes and will look to make a push for the top of the podium on his quest for a shot against Olympic gold medalist David Taylor at Final X.
Future Hawkeyes seek historic world team spots
The U.S. senior women's field continues to grow, and, with women's college wrestling officially an emerging sport within the NCAA, and Iowa announcing the start of its women's program, young talented athletes now have more options than ever to compete with the best in the world.
The Hawkeyes have signed ten early commits so far, two of whom are seeded to compete at the 2022 senior world team trials just months before they'll enroll for the fall semester at the University of Iowa: Nyla Valencia and Nanea Estrella. The older of these two athletes, Estrella, will join the Black and Gold after starting her career at Menlo University where she competed for the last two seasons. Seeded first for this weekend's tournament at 59kg, Estrella earned silver at the 2022 NAIA championships behind Lexie Basham of Texas Wesleyan, a wrestler who holds down the No. 4 seed at 59kg and could create excitement in this bracket as the possibility of a rematch looms. Without a returning world medalist at this weight, the 59kg semifinal winners from the world team trials will advance to Final X, and this is the perfect chance for incoming talented athletes to show off their skills in front of a future home crowd.
At 50kg, the Hawks also have a future representative in Nyla Valencia, the fourth seed at 50kg behind Erin Golston, Alyssa Lampe and Sage Mortimer. Valencia brings a wealth of experience at the age group level to the first Iowa women's recruiting class as she's been a finalist at the U15 and Cadet world team trials as well, and she's also finished as high as sixth at the junior world team trials. Though one of the younger athletes in the mix at the senior world team trials, Valencia will be worth watching because of the connection with the first Iowa women's program and her growth as a young star.
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This year's women's senior world team trials will also feature four other 2022 NAIA national champions who will be looking to make their mark on the senior stage including Nina Pham, Allieda Martinez, Destiny Lyng and Dymond Guilford, with Guilford coming in as the only NAIA champ with a top seed at 76kg. Much like 59kg, the semifinal winners at 76kg will advance to Final X for their best of three showdown now that Olympic silver medalist and 2021 World Champion Adeline Gray declined her spot.
Olympic Trials finalists Cohlton Schultz and Braxton Amos return to the Greco stage
Though the Greco-Roman brackets don't always receive the attention they deserve at the Senior World Team Trials, this year's Greco lineup features a number of college stars that will be worth watching. Michigan State's Peyton Omania will look to make his second world team after earning the spot in 2021 and finishing 0-1 in Oslo after a loss to Hasrat Jafarov of Azerbaijan, while fellow active college athletes Cohlton Schultz and Braxton Amos will aim for their second and first teams, respectively, as well.
Watch Cohlton Schultz wrestle Gable Steveson in the 2022 NCAA finals:
Schultz, who finished second at this year's NCAA tournament behind Gable Steveson, has been a staple on the Greco scene for years, previously competing as a member of the 2021 senior world team, 2019 junior world team, 2018 U23 world team, 2018 junior world team and 2017 cadet and junior world team. He's also a two-time NCAA All-American and the No. 1 seed in this year's qualifier. Amos, on the other hand, had a solid true freshman season at Wisconsin and will enter the Trials seeded second, one weight class above Schultz. The winner of 97kg at the Trials will have a best-of-three match series against Olympian Hancock, and Amos will be looking for that opportunity with the hopes of a rematch against the athlete that beat him out for the Olympic spot last year.
College athletes hold high seeds across men's freestyle, women's freestyle and Greco, and fans of top NCAA programs will have plenty to watch as action kicks off at the 2022 Senior World Team Trials on May 21 in Coralville.