Science Hill senior wrestler Chase Diehl likes a challenge.
That was one reason he decided not to defend his 160-pound TSSAA State Championship his senior season. Instead, he eyed a state title at the 170-pound weight class and worked his way through his competitors until meeting the defending state champion in the TSSAA state finals.
“He was one of the top talents in Tennessee and pound-for-pound one of the toughest competitors in Tennessee,” Diehl said through a widening smile. “I really wanted to face him, and I thought it would be a cool match and something the fans would like to see.”
Diehl won that match to cap off a 63-0 senior season and successfully left his fingerprints on the Science Hill program.
“He is the best wrestler that has ever put on the Science Hill uniform,” Science Hill wrestling Coach Jimmy Miller said. “We’ve had some other great names that have won state titles. But Chase is a three-time state medalist and two-time state champ and surpassed all of those guys by what he does on and off the mat.”
A bright smile consumed Diehl’s face after the comments from his coach.
“To finally hear him say that makes me feel like I’m really accomplished,” Diehl said. “That was always the goal. I wanted to be the best there ever was in the wrestling program at Science Hill.”
But it’s also a bittersweet saying for Diehl, son of Martha and Jared Diehl, because it means that his time as a ’Topper is coming to an end. The soon-to-be-graduate said he will cherish the time spent with teammates and coaches and the many life lessons he learned.
“This program means everything to me and I am so grateful to be a part of it,” Diehl said. “The lifelong friends that I’ve made that can never be replaced. We have, I think, the best coaching staff in the state. They care and they dedicate everything that they have to it. They care about us, not only as wrestlers, but as people as well. And I think that is why we’ve been so successful these past few years.”
The wrestling team’s success has also come from having student-athletes like Diehl, who has maintained a 4.0 GPA during his time as a ‘Topper. Miller said that he has always been impressed with Diehl’s work ethic and humble attitude.
“How fortunate we are to have kids like that who roll through the program,” Miller said. “And you want them all to be that way. You want them to be great students, great wrestlers and to be successful on and off the mat.”
It was Diehl’s merit off the mat that earned him a full-academic scholarship to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and he recently learned he earned the most prestigious scholarship that SIUE offers – the Meridian Scholarship – which only sees a handful of students considered.
While academics will be a majority of his focus at the next level, he will also try to leave his mark on the SIUE wrestling program, which recently had two individuals’ qualify for the NCAA wrestling tournament.
Diehl said he really enjoyed his time with the team during his visit and felt like he was walking into another family atmosphere.
“Something about the coaching staff and guys there really stuck out to me,” Diehl said. “They train hard and they wrestle a great schedule and it really appealed to me.”
While new coaches will be taking over, Diehl said he will always credit his former coaches, teammates, family and sport for helping him become the person he is.
“Wrestling is one of the best sports, not only for the physical aspect, but character as well,” Diehl said. “I developed a lot of self-reliance, discipline and respect; a lot of things that have contributed to my character, I owe to wrestling.”
Diehl will graduate in May, but ultimately he has plans of returning to his alma mater to teach and coach.
“I think Science Hill is one of the best high schools there is,” Diehl said. “I love the teachers and the students, they’re all great people. I am really happy to be part of Johnson City Schools.”
Miller said that he has heard of Diehl’s plans to return and hopes to hold him to it.
“He can’t take another coaching job until he coaches at Science Hill first,” Miller said. “We would love to have a kid like that come back and give to our program, and what a great coach he would make.”