USA Wrestling Beat the Streets Mai...

Beat the Streets Main Event Preview: Can Yianni defeat Olympic champ Vladimir Khinchegashvili?

By Mike Willis, USA Wrestling | Sept. 17, 2020, 1:03 p.m. (ET)

Photos courtesy of United World Wrestling.

Tonight, Beat the Streets will host their first Virtual Telethon alongside a card of six elite wrestling matches. Fans will be able to tune into the Virtual Telethon for free at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time live on FloWrestling. Wrestling will kick off 90 minutes later at 7:30 p.m. and can be viewed with a FloWrestling subscription.

The main event on tonight’s card will feature an exciting battle between Yianni Diakomihalis and Georgia’s Vladimir Khinchegashvili.

At only 21-years-old, Diakomihalis already established himself as one of the premier wrestlers in the country. He is currently the No. 2 on the National Team at 65 kg behind Zain Retherford. Diakomihalis and Retherford have developed a fierce back-and-forth rivalry over the past year, with Diakomihalis earning wins at the 2019 U.S. Open and the Yasar Dogu in Istanbul, Turkey, and Retherford emerging victorious from the best-of-three series at Final X to earn the World Team spot.

Diakomihalis’s breakthrough on the Senior level is no surprise given his pedigree. Diakomihalis won Cadet World titles in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Diakomihalis capped a, 37-1, true-freshman season for Cornell with an NCAA title. He followed it up in 2019 with a perfect, 29-0, season and another National title. This past NCAA season, Diakomihalis took an Olympic redshirt to focus solely on improving his freestyle.

While Diakomihalis is still in the beginning stages of his Senior-level career, he has already established that he can compete with the best international wrestlers on the planet. At the 2019 Beat the Streets event in Madison Square Garden, Diakomihalis bested India’s star Bajrang Punia in a thrilling, 10-8, bout. Punia was the returning World silver medalist and would go on to take bronze at the 2019 World Championships.

Two months later, Diakomihalis ran through Retherford, U23 World silver medalist Ali Rahimzadeh of Azerbaijan and Hungary’s 2019 World bronze medalist Ismail Musukaev to claim gold at the prestigious Yasar Dogu. The following month, Diakomihalis claimed gold at Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial in Poland.

Diakomihalis suffered a setback in December at the 2019 Senior Nationals, falling to Joey McKenna in the semifinals, 6-5. He would win his next match over Bryce Meredith, 10-0, before forfeiting the third place bout. At his most recent competition, Diakomihalis once again won gold at the 2020 Pan Am Championships.

Diakomihalis is known for his Gumby-like flexibility, which makes his scrambling close to otherworldly at times. His gas tank is right up there with the best in the world, and he keeps his attack rate high. At an exhibition match where wrestlers aren’t always in peak shape, this could prove hugely beneficial.

Diakomihalis will have his hands full with Khinchegashvili, the most credentialed wrestler he has ever faced. A 2016 Olympic champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist, Khinchegashvili is also a 2015 World champion, a 2014 World silver medalist and a 2017 World bronze medalist.

The knock on Khinchegashvili is that most have accolades have come at lower weight classes. His Olympic and World titles came at 57 kg and his Olympic silver was at 55 kg. His last medal earned was his World bronze at 61 kg in 2017. At the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary Khinchegashvili bumped up to 65 kg, where he went, 2-1, falling to eventual bronze medalist Akhmed Chakaev of Russia, 10-0, in the quarterfinals.

At the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Khinchegashvili went 1-1, losing in the round of 32 to eventual bronze medalist, Ismail Musukaev, who Diakomihalis defeated months earlier at the Yasar Dogu.

In his most recent outing, Khinchegashvili went 0-1 at the 2020 European Championships. In his lone match, he fell, 3-2, to Ali Rahimzadeh, another wrestler Diakomihalis defeated on his way to his Yasar Dogu title.

While Khinchegashvili’s success has declined in recent years, the Georgian is only 29-years-old and still considered one of the top wrestlers in the world in the weight class. Will Diakomihalis be able to knock off the Olympic champion? Looking at recent results, it seems plausible that Yianni might even be considered a slight favorite in this match. While his recent loss to McKenna gives me pause, Yianni has shown that he competes the best when the lights are brightest, and I believe he will earn his second-straight Beat the Streets victory over a Senior World medalist tonight.