Michael Diemer left his headphones at home on purpose.
The Campbellsville senior wrestler entered his third consecutive NAIA Wrestling National Championship appearance on March 6-7 with a different mentality as he attempted to finish in the top three at 149 pounds, and that included omitting his usual moment of zen before matches.
Diemer knew it was the last tournament of his collegiate career and he wanted to be present, not locked in to the music.
“It was definitely different because when you put those headphones on, you’re in a totally different place,” Diemer told The Daily Times. “You’re in your mind and you’re telling yourself that you’re going to go out there and do it, but it’s in your head, and usually when I took my headphones off, I would hear the crowd and it was kind of overwhelming.
“Without my headphones, I was in the moment and physically talking to myself, telling myself that I was going to go out there and beat this kid because I’m a dog and I worked for this. That made it a realization in mind that I was going to win.”
The Heritage alum fell one match short of accomplishing his goal, but a 4-2 overtime victory over No. 4-seed Richard Peacock from Missouri Valley capped a fifth-place finish that ended his career with All-America honors.
Diemer, who was the No. 9 seed, went 5-2 in the tournament with his two losses coming to eventual national champion Tres Leon from University of the Cumberlands and No. 3 seed Tanner Abbas from Grand View.
“The first two times that I went (to the national championships), I was nervous before every match and I was always putting bad thoughts in my head, but this year it was about going out there and having fun,” Diemer said. “I’ve been wrestling my whole life. I knew what I was doing out there.”
Heritage wrestling coach Jerry Teaster was not surprised by Diemer’s success. Teaster saw it coming a decade ago when he started coaching Diemer in middle school — back when Diemer’s potential was hindered by him going “100 miles per hour with everything he did.”
“He was one of those kids that if we told him to run through a wall, he would,” Teaster said. “He just believed in what you told him, and I’ve worked with all these kids for all these years, and that’s one of the hardest things to get them to do, but he took everything to heart.
“He was one that I thought would be one of the most successful that I’ve ever coached.”
Diemer calmed down by the time he reached high school and became a foundational athlete for a program that won its eighth consecutive region championship in January.
He was a four-time state qualifier and placed in the top five three times, including a runner-up finish in 2016.
“They knew how good we were, but they also knew we could be so much better,” Diemer said. “They took the time out of their lives for about six to eight years to drag us to practice and put us through those workouts, and it has obviously been a tremendous success.
“The way we competed and the camaraderie and the family we had, it helped us get to the top and it helped me reach my potential.”
Diemer’s ability translated to a wealth of success at Campbellsville, where he will begin molding the next crop of national championship qualifiers as a graduate assistant next year.
It is the first step toward leading his own program, but he also wants to open a restaurant or catering business after developing a passion for cooking when he moved off campus and lived in a house during his final two years of college.
“I know there were times where he was always talking about different things (that he wanted to eat after the season),” Teaster said. “He was ready to pig out on something.”
If Diemer cooks as well as he wrestles, plenty of other people will be devouring food as well.