Zain Retherford celebrates after beating Yianni Diakomihalis (Photo/Juan Garcia)
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- After all the controversy and adjudication Zain Retherford was finally able to turn back the challenge of Yianni Diakomihalis and earn a spot on the 2019 U.S. World Team. Less than an hour away from where he wrestled in high school, Retherford scored a 2-1 victory. In the past Diakomihalis was able to score with his dynamic scrambling ability, but that was not the case here.
"The last time we wrestled left a bad taste in my mouth," Retherford said after the match. "It wasn't that I got injured, it was because of the way I approached the match, I was not excited. I was angry, and you're not having fun when you are angry, and it is hard to score points and wrestle your style. I competed for fun this time, and that what has always been true to me. When I wrestled in the Penn State singlet it was fun. Life is short, you have to enjoy it."
In the match things got off to a quick start. Retherford penetrated with a single attempt. Diakomihalis initiated a scramble. The Penn State coaching staff thought the opponent exposed and tossed the challenge brick. After a break it was determined that there was not a score.
Yianni Diakomihalis and Zain Retherford get into a scramble (Photo/Juan Garcia)
Next Diakomihalis was in deep on a shot. Retherford was able to sit the corner and put two points on the board with an exposure. As the first period ended, Diakomihalis got in deep on another attacked, but the time expired before he could score.
Early in the second period, Retherford got back on his offense. This time it was Diakomihalis attempting to sit the corner. The referee signaled two points for the exposure, but it was white paddled and did not go on the scoreboard.
Zain Retherford gets in a shot before a stalemate was called (Photo/Juan Garcia)
As the match went on it was clear that Retherford would be able to run out the clock. However, he continued to attack and then hold on for the stalemate. The strategy worked. In the waning seconds of the match, the referee called a caution and one against Diakomhalis for using his leg against Retherford's head. That point was also white paddled, and the final score read 2-1.
Prior to this match, Diakomihalis had never scored fewer than six points in a match against Retherford. Here he was only able to score via the failed challenge. Clearly Retherford made the necessary adjustments to win the bout.
Retherford will now enter the 2019 UWW World Championships, which take place Sept. 14-22 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Four wrestlers enter the championships with rankings: No. 1 Bajrang Punia (India), No. 2 Takuto Otoguro (Japan), Selahattin Kilicsallayan (Turkey) and No. 4 Sayatbek Okassov (Kazakhstan). Diakomihalis famously defeated Punia at the 2019 Beat the Streets.