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Yianni Diakomihalis '21 raises his hands in victory after defeating Wyoming's Bryce Meredith for the NCAA wrestling title at 141 pounds.

Freshman Yianni Diakomihalis crowned NCAA wrestling champion

Yianni Diakomihalis takes down Bryce Meredith of Wyoming.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Freshman Yianni Diakomihalis used a four-point cradle in the closing seconds to become Cornell’s second freshman NCAA champion, topping No. 1 seed Bryce Meredith of Wyoming 7-4 in the 141-pound final March 17 at Quicken Loans Arena. The rookie took the most challenging path possible as the No. 3 seed to earn the crown.

Diakomihalis became the second Big Red freshman to earn a national title; Kyle Dake ’13 was the first. Dake also won his initial title at 141 pounds on his way to becoming a four-time NCAA champ – and doing so at four different weight classes.

Trailing 4-2 with under a minute and a half remaining after a Meredith takedown, Diakomihalis escaped to get back within one with 43 ticks remaining. Needing a takedown for the win, the freshman was able to wrap up the senior into a cradle, scoring two back points to rally for the victory.

Diakomihalis and Meredith had an early scramble that ended in a stalemate, setting the tone. The freshman pushed the pace to the edge throughout the first period despite an extended blood break for Meredith. Once action restarted, the two wrestlers spent the remainder of the period jockeying for position without a score.

Yianni Diakomihalis embraces Cornell assistant wrestling coach Mike Grey '11 after winning the NCAA title.

The freshman started neutral in the second and picked up an explosive takedown, followed by a quick escape by Meredith. A re-attack by the freshman nearly resulted in a second takedown but was warded off by Meredith. Meredith chose bottom to kick off the third trailing 2-1, and Diakomihalis was only able to ride for 5 seconds before Meredith got the match-tying escape. He finally finished a shot to take the lead, setting up Diakomihalis’ comeback.

For the Cornell program, which finished seventh at the NCAAs, the win gave the Big Red its 20th individual national with Diakomihalis becoming the 14th to contribute to the total. The Big Red has now celebrated at least one NCAA champion in nine of the last 11 seasons and has had a finalist in each of those 11 years. Cornell had four wrestlers, including three freshmen, earning All-America honors, and the Big Red has finished in the top 10 of the team race every year since 2008, joining Iowa as the lone schools to make that claim.

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Jeremy Hartigan