By: Alex Steen, Editor
Name: J’Den Cox
Height: 6’ 0”
Weight Class: 86 kg (189 lbs)
Club: Missouri Wrestling Foundation
Lives In: Columbia, MO
High School: Hickman High School, Columbia, MO
Born: Mar. 3rd, 1995
Every wrestler who entered the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at 86 kg this year was in the same position. If they won, they would head to the qualifying tournaments, first in Mongolia, then Turkey, to try to secure the United States’ spot in Rio. How many of those wrestlers would you expect to show up without a passport? J’Den Cox did. Cox’s lack of passport probably seemed unimportant before the tournament. He was the ninth seed, the same seed as Frank Molinaro at 65 kg, had no international experience and seemed unlikely to win the spot. Cox has been doing unlikely things for a long time.
As a four year old, Cox got to know his future college coach, Brian Smith, when he would go read books in Smith’s office while his older brothers were at wrestling practice. He later played youth football with Smith’s son. As he progressed through his high school wrestling career, winning four straight Missouri state titles, Cox found himself in the position of having to choose between the Olympic Training Center and wrestling for Smith at Missouri. He ultimately chose Missouri and won a title as a freshman for the coach he had known almost all of his life. He added a fifth place finish as a sophomore and another title in 2016 before his run of freestyle success began in April.
After he knocked off Kyle Dake in the best of three final series in Iowa City, there was still work to do. After sorting out the passport issue, Cox found himself wrestling in his first international tournament. With a spot in the Olympic Games on the line in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Cox seemed unlikely to place in the top three against a field of international veterans. He won five straight matches, took the gold medal and punched his ticket to Rio.
Cox, since he returned from Mongolia, has finished finals at Missouri, electrified Times Square with his victory at the Beat the Streets event and continues to prepare himself for another unlikely run. There are a lot of unknowns surrounding how he will do against an Olympic field of wrestlers that he hasn’t seen before. Of course, few of them have seen him either. Cox’s potential is limitless, but it seems unlikely that a wrestler with such limited experience on the world stage could come out of nowhere and grab the gold medal. Cox has been doing unlikely things for a long time.
2016 – U.S. Olympic Team Trials Champion, 1st World Olympic Games Qualifying Tournament Champion, Fourth Place U.S. Open