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Step 3 for Mizzou Wrestling: Get J'Den Cox rolling again

Missed out on the discussion so far? Don't fear! Lightweights Middleweights

The Beef

The Beef: So while we are somewhat unknown at 165 and 174, that is not really the case about 184. If you look at the NCAA finish, you have a to-be junior in Gabe Dean at the top of the class, and then 5 to-be seniors before you get to Miklus as a to-be sophomore. Does this mean we might see a National Title from him before all is said and done?

Prepare gushing and excitement…go!

BST: I think Miklus for sure has everything it takes to be an NCAA champ. He is strong, explosive, persistent, and a big wild. He showed how raw he was quite a few times this past season but he also showed a TON of promise. I think his matches against Dean alone showed that Miklus really isn't that far away from being a top 4 guy. This upcoming year will be interesting to see if he grows with his top game and very much like Mayes, figures out how to wrestle an entire period and not just kinda give up those last 5 seconds.

Shaffe: Thanks to BST's gushing I feel like I have to be the bad guy and reel things back in a little here. Miklus was a wonderful bright spot as a freshman this past year, but I'm not sure if I see "National Champion" out of him just yet. This isn't much of a knock considering we've only seen him for one go, but even with the departures at his weight class you can't just slide him up half a dozen notches and call it good. Will he contend for All-American status next year (and hopefully his last two years as well)? I think that is extremely likely. However I want to see a little more out of Willie before I put him up there with guys who are expected to compete for a title going into a season.

The Beef: As we move from 184 to 197, I think it will be very intriguing to see how J’Den Cox comes back from a disappointing 5th place finish at the NCAA’s. Nemesis Kyle Snyder appears to be taking a redshirt for training, but there always seems to linger the question about whether J’Den makes the move to HWY. I think that question got brought up just a tad more this past season considering how often he stepped in at HWY in the absence of Devin Mellon (and Miklus also moved up to 197 in those instances). You guys think there is ever going to be anything to the idea of Cox bumping up?

Shaffe: As for 184/197, I think "J'Den is moving to HWT" is the new "Matt Lawrence is going on academic scholarship". I don't buy it'll ever happen and as such I see Tim Miklus being a swing man of sorts backing up Butler and his older brother. I do agree with BST that Miklus the elder, assuming he makes any sort of significant improvement, should be considered a real threat at 184 next year. I say that even without looking at who will challenge that weight too.

BST: At this point, with the champ at 197 gone, Snyder out for a RS year, I can't imagine J'Den moving up to HWT. The weight class is fully and completely his to control this season. His biggest competition this season will be McIntosh (1-1 last season against), Burak (1-0) and Hartmann (2-0). I'd be interested to see if any of those 3 move around for their Sr. year. I honestly think losing was a good thing for J'Den. He got defensive last year, guys were running away from him and he got frustrated. He will justifiably have a fire in his belly and I'm afraid to see what hes going to do to people after his "disappointment" in the NCAAs.

Shaffe: I hadn't looked around the country at 197 yet, but based on what BST has said I doubly can't see Cox moving up for this coming year. I personally don't think he'll ever make the move even though he'd probably All-American without changing anything at all about his training. However J'Den isn't a guy who's just looking to make the podium, he's looking to top it. With Snyder taking the redshirt to gear up for the Olympics (I'm assuming) it sure seems like the Fightin' Smiths will have a title favorite on their hands, or at least a contender on a very short list.

If J'Den Cox figured out in the offseason how to beat guys who don't want to wrestle him, then he will VERY quickly go back to being the dominant figure we saw during his freshman year. Maybe he chewed the ear of Mizzou's #1 Greatest who would certainly be able to offer advice on that front.

The Beef: Shaffe hit the nail on the head here about J’Den figuring out how to beat guys who don’t want to wrestle him, and it is why I am somewhat in the wait and see category with J’Den, as strange as that seems for me to say. This is terribly revisionist, but his best moment (winning the 2014 NCAA title) also provided a peek into how to potentially beat him, as we all know a match that lasts 7:01 likely goes the other way. This year in the semis and championships rounds, that peek became an official reality, though certainly we saw further instances of tight wins against (perceived) lesser opponents. Gone was the 10-1 MAC championship win of 2014 against Phil Wellington, replaced instead with a 3-1 win against the same. Does it mean opponents are figuring him out? Does it mean he has become less aggressive? Does it mean he got too complacent this year coming off the national title? Does it mean the hearing loss has potentially thrown off his equilibrium and his confidence in his shot? Does it mean he is relying too much on his defense, which is amazing but not quite impenetrable? Does it mean he just had some off days?

Lots of questions, so lots to prove in 2016 for me

Alright, so I know we’ve discussed HWY at bit already with the notion we don’t believe J’Den will make the step up there any time soon (if ever). That issue notwithstanding, the HWY spot is in a bit of turnover this year. Gone is Devin Mellon, who though he only wrestled for half the season last year due to some off-mat issues, did very well in providing Mizzou with plenty of solid wins and finishes. The only HWY on the roster now who has been at Mizzou longer than a couple of weeks is Wood Mancuso, who red-shirted last season and was around .500 on the unattached circuit. Where do you see this weight class going for the Tigers? Mancuso? Someone else (which would then be a true frosh I believe). Or does J’Den pick up some matches again at HWY in duals where we don’t want to potentially give the match away (so to speak)?

BST: At this point I guess it has to be Mancuso at HWT. has an updated roster and there are only two guys total between 197 and HWT listed, they are J'den and Wood. I definitely think we could see J'den move up and take a shot at HWT for some duals like we saw last year. This provides him with an easier week that doesn't require 1 or more cuts to make weight and can give some guy sat 184/197 to get some varsity action. For when Mancuso actually wrestles, I have no idea what to expect. A .500 RS Freshman season isn't exactly lighting the world on fire, but maybe he was working through some stuff, building his body for the college heavyweight game, and prepping for this coming season. As deep and talented as the Tigers are at almost every other weight class, I'm not terribly worried about this one.


The Beef: There will be one other, as he was just added in the late wave of signings from July

James Romero

Romero is a two-time New Mexico state champion as a heavyweight, completing high school with a 114-17 career record. He collected a fifth-place finish as a freshman and a second-place finish as a sophomore before claiming back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, Romero competed at the 2015 Rocky Mountain Nationals and the USAW Junior Folkstyle Nationals, winning the Rocky Mountain title and placing fourth at the Folkstyle Nationals.

State champ is nice, though I don’t know how deep the state of New Mexico is from a high school wrestling standpoint. Sounds like he has some solid national finishes though, so I suppose he might compete for a spot as well.

Shaffe: As for HWT, it's a weight class that Mizzou has experienced just about more success in under Brian Smith than any other. It's a little strange the way things stand right now with seemingly a big hole in the lineup here but I think two factors are coming into play here.

First is the sheer number of bodies at the lower weights. How many times in this preview have we gushed about the depth and competition at a weight? A lot. In a sport with limited scholarship monies that means there is going to be a personnel shortage somewhere to compensate and we see that shortage here.

Secondly I think that with the history that Smith and Co. have put out here we might be well served to wait and see how the unknowns do on the mat before we assume a repeat of last fall, when Mizzou had literally no heavyweight due to Mellon's issues, is in the cards.

That being said, I'm still expecting probably the least out of this weight class, whoever comes out with regularity. I, too, wouldn't be shocked to see Cox get a couple of dual matches here but only enough to keep the "J'Den Cox to HWT" legend going. Otherwise it'll probably be a lot of trial by fire here and hopefully a lot of pleasant surprises.