Last time we talked about J'den Cox he was winning the NCAA D1 title at 197lbs. His 2nd title in 3 years, and 3rd All-American campaign in as many years. He pretty well packed things up and has been keeeping a low profile since then, right?
I mean other than cutting weight down to 189 pounds, winning the Olympic Trials despite wrestling a different style, traveling to Mongolia two weeks later and winning a spot in the Olympics, and knocking off several guys who are ranked internationally – yeah it’s been a pretty chill summer for J’den. I suppose we should expand on that run-on sentence and start at the beginning with his Olympic Trials journey? How impressive do you find it that he was able to drop down to 86kg so soon after wrestling at 197 pounds all season for Mizzou? Did he do it just to avoid WORLD CHAMPION Kyle Snyder at 97kg or was there other reasons for his decision?
I think J'den's focus on his weight and eating all year long showed. He appeared to be in better shape, and fresh through out the season. Not having to make hard weight cuts I'm sure helped that tremendously. I'd be willing to bet that Cox was also planning on making a cut down to 86kg before the NCAA season even began, so this was probably in his mind for some time. But, I don't want that to take any way any due credit. Its still pretty freaking impressive.
I think that he for sure didn't wanna match up against Snyder, who had the super easy path of a world champ straight into the finals. Can you imagine if Dake had that kind of a gift? Also, I think J'den just matches up against the 86kg guys that much better. Hes bigger than every single of them, especially the guys who are coming up in weight after a division being cut.
So, since winning the US olympic trials at 86kg, what has J'den done? Anything of note?
Well since nobody else at his (new) weight could take care of business during the 2015 World Championships or the Pan-American qualification tournament J'den had to set off to freaking Mongolia to try and qualify for the Olympics just two weeks after earning the right to do so. The competition there was certainly second tier as nations who had already qualified could not enter, but for a kid who just a month earlier was standing on the stage at Madison Square Garden it was damn impressive to see him go in there and win the damn tournament. On top of getting the job done on that front he also looked very much improved in his freestyle skills with just a couple of weeks of real focus put in. J'den has had plenty of experience, and success, in freestyle on the junior level but to see the leaps he took and has continued to take this summer against senior level competition is really incredible.
I know Cox has taken down some decent competition since securing his spot in Rio. Would you care to offer some highlights before we turn our gaze to the future?
Lets see, J'den is 12-2 at the international level since securing the US spot at 86kg. In Mongolia, not only did he go 5-0, but he outscored his (admittedly lesser) competition 36-3. A few weeks later Cox faced off against then-No. 10-ranked Meisam Mostafa Joukar (Iran), and won 10-5 in a match that he controlled throughout. At the freestyle world cup he went 3-1, beating No. 5-ranked Alexander Gostiev (Azerbaijan) and No. 12-ranked Alireza Karimimachiani (Iran). The last tune-up before Rio was the Grand Prix of Germany where J'den dropped the semifinal match to reigning olympic champ, Sharif Sharifov (Azerbaijan), before coming back and placing 3rd.
That is a pretty damn impressive slate for anyone. The fact that J'den is basically still learning on the fly against guys who are career freestylers is just insane. Every interview I've read after each of these events has guys just marveling at how big and fast Cox is, while improving throughout each match.
Anything else to add here or should we move on to Rio?
I think we've both touched on the most impressive part of these last couple of months, and what also gives us a lot of excitement headed into the Olympics. This is the first time in J'den's career that he's focusing exclusively on freestyle wrestling. While the general idea is the same there are enough differences that it can be a big adjustment from the folkstyle that he's been almost exclusively wrestling since beginning his collegiate career. The thing about J'den Cox is that his ceiling is extremely high and the early gains we've seen as he really explores that ceiling have me, and I think you as well, extremely excited for his prospects on the big stage.