T he biggest decision of John Diekel’s life had little to do with wrestling.
Diekel, a senior at Whitehall High School, has amassed more than 200 career wins and on Saturday claimed his fifth consecutive Class D championship. The wiry 138 pound wrestler has received interest from several Division I colleges, including Duke and Maryland, but in the end it was the opportunity to do more than just wrestle that shaped Diekel’s decision to attend the Air Force Academy.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Diekel said. “It was the opportunity to serve that put me over the edge. I looked at the honor of being part of the U.S. military and the chance to serve my country.”
Diekel began the long and arduous task of applying to the Air Force Academy last spring and after nearly a dozen interviews, he learned of his official appointment to the prestigious institution last month.
“Brandon (Steves, a teammate on Whitehall’s wrestling team) and I were headed to youth practice to help out when I saw an Albany number come up on my phone. I said who’s calling me from Albany. So I answered and it was Chris Gibson (Rep., R-Kinderhook),” Diekel said. “He congratulated me on my appointment and told me how proud everyone in the district was and how proud of me he was.”
“It’s an excellent opportunity for John. It’s just a great story. He loves the physical environment of the academy. I’m very happy for him; it’s been his goal for awhile,” said Bob Diekel, John’s father and Whitehall’s wrestling coach.
A technically sound wrestler and fiercely intense competitor, Diekel will be pursing his second consecutive Sectional championship and his fourth trip the state meet at the Section II Championships this weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
As a freshman he placed sixth (112) at the state meet and was seventh (138) last year. He hopes to become only the fifth wrestler from Whitehall to win state championship, joining Jamie Huntington, Dan Bishop and his uncle and cousin, Paul and Zach Diekel.
“I want to win my final match of the season, that’s the ultimate goal,” Diekel said.
Diekel is the first student from Whitehall to ever be appointed to the Air Force Academy and the Division I program’s first-ever recruit from New York, his father said.
Diekel spent several days visiting the academy last month.
“It was amazing. It was like nothing I’ve seen before,” he said. “I stayed with the team for a few days and went to a few practices. Everyone was very good to me. Their program is very similar to ours. It’s very technical and high-paced approach.”
Diekel said he will likely wrestler at 141 or 149 pounds and he plans to major in business administration. After he receives his degree he has a five year commitment in the Air Force.
This is the fourth consecutive year an athlete from Whitehall will attend and compete at a Division I School and is another feather in the hat of a wrestling program that has seen several wrestlers (Zach Diekel and Jed Mason both wrestler at the D-I level) compete at the highest collegiate level.
“It says a lot about our program but also about these kids. They went the extra mile,” said Bob Diekel. “It’s pretty good for tiny, little Whitehall.”