Starting in mid-March United States President Donald Trump as well as state governors began to urge all Americans to practice social distancing.
College athletes at every level have seen changes to their lifestyle, some for the better and others for worse.
Last year at this time Lou DePrez was preparing to enter the NCAA Division I National Tournament representing the Binghamton Bearcats in the 184 lb division. This year things are different.
“For the first time in a while I’m just relaxing. I like to watch TV, I spend time outside fishing and having bonfires with my family. Stuff I use to enjoy in high school. It’s nice seeing my family for a little bit because I don’t get to see them often,” said DePrez.
A little over 50 miles north of Binghamton in Cornell, DePrez’s high school teammate and childhood best friend Yianni Diakomihalis is going through a similar process.
After securing consecutive national championships at 141 lbs for the Big Red, Diakomihalis opted to take this season as an Olympic redshirt. Time spent away from competing in the NCAA ladder opens up opportunities to begin preparations for the Olympic trials and eventually the Olympic games.
“It’s been a struggle to get good training partners but for now I’m wrestling with my brother who is a very good wrestler, he’ll be coming to Ithaca next year. I see this as a blessing in disguise because I can recover from some injuries and minor tweaks. I’ve been able to totally hit the reset button and reevaluate what I need to work on going forward,” said Diakomihalis.
DePrez was not on an Olympic redshirt this year. His season came to an end when the NCAA told him it was over. Peaking as the #2 ranked 184 lb wrestler in the country, DePrez was optimistic about his tournament potential and rightfully so.
“I understand why everything had to happen the way it did, but it sucks. Nobody wants to go out like that. This took away my run at the national championship. For now, I’m letting the mind and body recover. The season really takes a toll on you physically and mentally so it’s important to take some time off so you don’t burn out,” said DePrez.
Both wrestlers experienced heartbreak from this pandemic. DePrez’s was on a national scale. Diakomihalis experienced his on a global scale.
“Initially I was upset about the delay of the (Olympic) games to 2021, but I know I’ll be closer to my peak one year from now so I’m trying to look at this as a blessing in disguise. I’m missing out on having some amazing training partners and making the improvements I would normally make during this time. I was so close to making the Olympic team, I was the number two guy on the USA ladder and I was a medal threat at the games. I know my opponents are going to get lazy and lose focus. This is where I need to stay locked in,” said Diakomihalis.
Diakomihalis and DePrez handle their situations in similar ways. The two would agree that the silver linings are few and far between. These two are competitors at the top of their talent pool. These guys want to win and winning at the highest level can consume you if you allow it.
Yianni Diakomihalis – Cornell Wrestler
Lou DePrez – Binghamton Wrestler