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  • Photo: Photo/John Sachs

    Photo: Photo/John Sachs

    Zain Retherford vs. Yianni Diakomihalis by the numbers

    Yianni Diakomihalis defeated Zain Retherford in the U.S. Open finals (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)

    The fourth and almost certainly final edition of Final X returns on Monday. Zain Retherford and Yianni Diakomihalis will look to finish their best-of-three series that started back in June. At the time, Retherford seemingly won both matches to make the 2019 U.S. World Team. The second match came down to the final exchange and has since been nullified via arbitration. That has set the stage for Monday in Wilkes Barre, Pa. If Retherford wins one match, he is on the team, while Diakomihalis will need to win back-to-back matches to represent the U.S. at the World Championships.

    The following is a by-the-numbers preview. The numbers include all collegiate matches for both wrestlers as well as all senior level matches tracked by USA Wrestling and United World Wrestling.

    Head-to-head matches

    In addition to their two matches at Final X, Retherford and Diakomihalis also faced off at this year's U.S. Open and Yasar Dogu tournaments with the Cornell wrestler winning both matches. After four matches the two are split at 2-2, and they are also even in terms of match points at 25 a piece.

    In those matches Diakomihalis has scored 16 points via eight takedowns, while Retherford has put up 14 points on six takedowns. In their second match at Final X, the former Penn State wrestler scored the only four-point takedown in their series.

    Both wrestlers have registered four exposures in the series, but Diakomihalis registered the only four-point turn. It was the difference in their match at the Yasar Dogu, which ended up being a 9-5 match.

    While Retherford has been the aggressor at times in the neutral position, Diakomihalis seems to have the edge in the takedown department. He has finished much cleaner overall and been able to turn Retherford's attempts into offense. In order to earn that spot on the World Team, Retherford will need to make the most of his opportunities in the top position.

    Match termination rate

    In college the top position was perhaps Retherford's best position. He scored 54 falls during his collegiate career and had a 58 percent match termination rate. However, he has not been able to fully adapt that finishing ability to the freestyle circuit.

    In freestyle, Diakomihalis actually has the better match termination rate. In his nascent senior-level career, he has stopped the bout early in 44 percent of his matches. On the other hand, Retherford's match termination rate falls all the way to 42%. After registering 54 falls on the college matches, he has only three in his senior-level career with all three coming against overmatched opposition at the 2017 Grand Prix of Spain.

    In this series, Retherford has had his moments in the top position. He has not been able to fully transition his dominant top game from folkstyle to freestyle, but he has been able to score following takedowns. Diakomihalis seemed vulnerable to turns in the series, but Retherford was unable to turn him in their most recent match at the Yasar Dogu.

    Match Points

    Thanks to his takedown prowess, Diakomihalis has averaged 9.6 points per match and only 4.3 points against during his freestyle career. Retherford has a slightly lower points per match rate at 7.8, but he also allows fewer points per match with only 3.1.

    In his victories, Retherford's defense has been even stronger as he is allowing only 1.8 points per match. Diakomihalis has turned up the volume in his wins and averaged 10.3 points per match.

    In an interesting wrinkle, Diakomihalis has actually performed better against international opposition than domestic in terms of putting up points. He has scored 10.3 points per match on the international circuit and only 9.2 against those representing the U.S. On the other hand, Retherford has scored 8.0 points per match domestically and only 7.09 internationally.

    One possible explanation for Diakomihalis' international scoring success is that wrestlers are not ready for his folkstyle scrambling game. Normally scrambling in freestyle is a dangerous game since it is so easy to expose. Despite this Diakomihalis has been extraordinarily effect when it goes to counter his opponents' offense.

    Strength of schedule

    Retherford certainly has more international experience than the current college student. However, Diakomihalis has taken on a variety of opposition and picked up some signature wins. At Beat the Streets he defeated the top ranked wrestler at this weight No. 1 Bajrang Punia (India). Later in the summer he also knocked off No. 6 Sayatbek Okassov (Kazakhstan) at the Ziolkowski Memorial.

    On the other hand, Retherford has faced several ranked wrestlers in his own right. However, all three of his opponents who are currently ranked by UWW all defeated him, including No. 2 (70 kilograms) Adam Batirov (Bahrain), No. 4 (70 kilograms) Andrey Kvyatkovskyy (Ukraine) and No. 3 (61 kilograms) Gadzhimurad Rashidov (Russia).

    There are some obvious issues with the UWW ranking system. However, the rankings do make it clear that Diakomihalis has made the most of his opportunities against top competition, which is part of the reason why many are excited to potentially see what he can do at the World Championships.

    Bottom line

    Despite the controversial nature of the series between Diakomihalis and Retherford all of the matches have been tight and exciting affairs. Diakomihalis seems to have the edge in the neutral position, but Retherford has shown that he can score when he needs points. Retherford will need to take advantage of his limited opportunities from the top position, while Diakomihalis needs to be able to score off counters and his own offense to make it to the World Team. Things seem to be trending in favor of Diakomihalis. He won their most recent bout, and it was the highest margin of victory to date. On top of that, Retherford suffered an injury in the match. Diakomihalis goes into Monday as the favorite, but nobody should be surprised if Retherford escapes with another victory and finds himself in Nur-Sultan next month.

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