He may not have wanted the attention but when Yianni Diakomihalis won a gold medal at the United World Wrestling Cadet Freestyle Championships over the weekend, he should have known that he wasn’t going to come home quietly.
Diakomihalis arrived home to a scene of 50 to 60 family and friends waiting for him to get off the plane Monday night at the Greater Rochester International Airport.
“It’s kind of overwhelming, I’m definitely surprised,” he said looking around at his supporters.
Diakomihalis won the 58-kilogram (127.5-pound) weight class representing the United States in Bosnia-Herzegovina over the weekend. He defeated Jintaro Motoyama of Japan, 6-3 in the final round on Saturday. In all, he defeated five wrestlers at the event that included athletes between 15 and 17 years old from 24 different countries.
“Since I first started wrestling I would watch the World Championships and know they were the best in the world,” Diakomihalis said. “When I was out there and they said ‘Team USA, Yianni,’ I thought this is awesome.”
Yianni went to Bosnia with his father and two brothers, while his mother, Gina Diakomihalis, stayed in Rochester. She was able to watch the matches and said she put them on her big screen at home.
Gina said wrestling is Yianni’s true passion.
“I’m beyond happy for him,” she said. “We went over there wanting to bring back a medal and he went beyond his expectations. He’s such a great kid; he’s just an amazing kid.”
The soon-to-be junior at Hilton adds the gold medal to a resume that includes three state championships.
Yianni, 16, is the second Rochester-area high school athlete to win a world championship, with Rush-Henrietta rising junior Sammy Watson winning a gold medal in the girls 800-meters at the IAAF World Youth Championships in July.
Yianni, who has already given a verbal commitment to wrestle at Cornell, returns to reality next week as Hilton starts classes on Sept. 8.
“I’m going try and act like nothing,” said Yianni.
After becoming a world champion, that’s not going to be easy to do.