It was an incredible thing watching J’den Cox on Saturday and realizing that a) from a physical standpoint, he was as impressive as anyone in his weight class at the damn Olympics, and b) this local story we’ve been following for so long (great high schooler turns into great college wrestler turns into Olympic medalist) was no longer local anymore.
Cox has become just about the perfect representative for the University of Missouri: hard working, insightful, introspective, unique. He is his own cat, and he is brilliant.
Some Cox links from the weekend:
With the medal, Cox becomes the seventh University of Missouri athlete to win a medal at the Olympics – and the first since 2008 – joining Brutus Hamilton, Jackson Scholz, Dan Pippin, Dick Cochran, Natasha Kaiser (Brown) and Christian Cantwell in the exclusive club. It wrapped up an amazing day of competition in which Cox didn't allow a single takedown.
Oh right, almost forgot that part: Four Olympic matches, zero takedowns allowed.
As he told reporters after the semifinal, “Failure happens. Disappointment, you can control.”
Yes, you can. Yes, he did. [...]
Cox’s medal hopes rested on a challenge, which a team lodges by tossing a stuffed animal on the mat — another curious bit of wrestling logic. Officials mat-side reviewed the tape and ruled it a takedown. Cox now led 3-1. USA fans and his cheering section from Missouri went wild.
Six seconds remained, but Salas Perez refused to continue. It’s really unlikely he could have scored on Cox in six seconds, but there was a chance. It was a chance he wasn’t interested in taking.
Failure happens. Disappointment, you can control.
The idea behind passivity points is sensible -- you want guys trying to score and not just run out the clock. Fine. But I watched a decent amount of wrestling this weekend and realized that I knew less about what does and doesn’t constitute passivity at the end of the weekend than I did at the beginning. It was maddening.
This weekend also confirmed what I was already suspecting: Being a wrestling official is even more frustrating, and even less rewarding, than being a basketball official. I can’t think of a single tightly-contested match that I’ve seen when there wasn’t at least one “What??” call. So much left to chance and randomness.
Regardless, Cox’s Cuban opponent, Salas Perez, was built like a damn brick and fended off most of Cox’s attempts at offense, nearly turning most of them around for himself. But ... he was the second-best wrestler on the mat. And despite his experience, he showed far less maturity and resilience than the 21-year old from Missouri.
“There were a whole bunch of really idiotic reffing maneuvers there, so the only thing I can say is that I’m thankful they got the right person’s hand raised,” said Askren, who also won two NCAA titles for Mizzou. “J’den was the right guy. The refs made it look like he was going to lose for a second there with some stupid decisions, but, at the end of the day, the right guy got his hand raised and that was all that mattered. It’s thrilling seeing him come home with a medal.”
Askren, who competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, worked out with Cox for a few days in late May during a visit to Columbia. He knows as well as anyone how challenging Cox’s accomplishments are.
“It was amazing,” Askren said. “Obviously, he’s been on an incredible streak in the last six months or so. Today topped it all off. He really did a great job. He had one little misfire there (in the semifinals), which was really a bad strategical decision. Besides that, it was a great day of wrestling.”
By the way, congrats as well to Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder, who not only also medaled at 97kg, but also won gold.