F or the past six years, every time Zach Diekel has walked into the Whitehall High School gymnasium, he only had to look up to reaffirm the lessons his father has taught him.
Hanging from the ceiling is a banner featuring the names of the three Whitehall men who have won New York State wrestling titles: Dan Bishop in 2005, Jamie Huntington in 1992 and Zach’s father, Paul Diekel in 1981.
And sometime soon, Zach’s name will be added to that banner.
“In our gym, you see my dad’s name on the wall and now my name is going to be up there with his forever,” Zach Diekel said. “It’s just awesome.”
Diekel became the school’s fourth state champion last weekend at the New York state wrestling championships, defeating Bryce Mazurowski 9-3 at 195 pounds.
Moments after claiming the title, Zach embraced his father, lifting him off the ground, the joy clearly visible on both of their faces.
Zach gave his father credit for a lot of his success.
“It’s a lot of fun when you get to wrestle your father. We scrap all the time. He has a lot of power on me, but I’m a little quicker and I can catch him sometimes, but I don’t think he ever goes 100 percent.
My dad taught me 95 percent of everything I know about wrestling,” Zach Diekel said.
Head coach Bob Diekel said his nephew’s opponents are often at a disadvantage.
“Zach has his own personal trainer; his father is his workout partner. It’s like two guys against one because of the work he’s done with his father,” he said.
Bob Diekel said Zach wrestles his father 90 percent of the time in practice.
“They are good partners. I roll around with him sometimes but I’m getting older,” Bob Diekel joked.
After losing to Austyn Hayes 10-1 at the Eastern States Classic, Zach spent the last month of the season refining his technique with his father.
They worked on picking their opportunities and waiting for the match to come to them and focused on putting more weight on the opposing wrestler’s head.
All the work paid off this past weekend when Zach defeated Hayes in a thrilling semifinal match that showcased his grit and determination and fundamental wrestling technique.
Diekel said after match against Hayes that he thought his wrestling had improved.
“It makes me think I got better,” he said. “The match just went my way.”
The similarities between Zach and his father are striking.
Both are similar in size, although Paul Diekel was a little smaller than Zach in high school, wrestling at 167 pounds, compared to Zach who wrestles at 195.
Both finished third at the state tournament their junior year, only to capture the state title their senior year.
And Zach will attend the same school and compete for the same collegiate program, Lehigh, where his father was an All-American in the mid 1980s.
But it’s Zach off-the-mat accomplishments that make his father most proud.
“Anytime your child does something it makes you proud,” Paul Diekel said, explaining that he’s savoring his son’s title more than his own. “The big thing is his being named valedictorian. The wrestling will take care of itself, but the great part is he’s going to a great college to get an engineering degree.”