When someone brings up the subject of wrestling, I can easily reflect on the moments in life that turn me right back to what the sport has done for me as an individual. Dating back to when I was a young and clueless kid, wrestling was just an opportunity to rough around with my buddies. Very little did I know that it was the beginning of a journey that would mold me into the person I am today.
There is an inspiring quote by wrestling legend Dan Gable that states, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” These words couldn’t ring more true when it comes to the wrestling lifestyle. Wrestling isn’t just a sport where you roll around on a mat or a sport where you “starve yourself.” It’s a sport of mental toughness, repetition and integrity, among many other characteristics. Something that will push you right up to the brink of sheer exhaustion trying to break you, until it rewards you.
During the 2017 World Team Trials, Mizzou wrestling alumni and three-time NCAA Champ J’den Cox was in a sink-or-swim match against David Taylor (Former Penn State Nittany Lion and 2x NCAA Champion). J’den had taken a first-round 9-3 loss followed by a second-round 4-3 victory, forcing a third and final match.
With the series tied 1-1, Cox opened the third-round match with an early 3-0 lead heading into the second period where three minutes sat between him and defending his world team spot. Ten seconds into the second period, a career-defining moment was created. J’den had collapsed on the boundary line with a knee injury trying to avoid a takedown.
With nearly an entire period to go, the score was set at 3-2 in his favor. J’den was left with a significant decision to make after suffering a hyperextended knee. After a brief medical delay, Cox pulled up his socks and caught his breath before making his way back to the center of the mat. The match continued.
With 2:03 left in the match, Taylor was awarded a 1-point pushout and criteria giving him the lead. Cautiously walking back to the center, J’den immediately went on offense, shooting Taylor out and regaining the lead once again 4-3. Enduring pain, Cox was awarded another step out with 1:03 on the clock on an athletic side-stepping down block.
Scrambling, shooting and defending for the next sixty-three seconds, J’den went on to finish the match with a 5-3 victory over David Taylor on a bum knee. J’den Cox showed what an exemplary wrestler looks like by responding to adversity and never accepting defeat.
J'den Cox makes send straight Olympic/World team with 5-3 win over David Taylor at 86 kg; guts out bad knee injury in second #WTT2017— WIN Magazine (@WINWrestlingMag) June 11, 2017
So are wrestlers more than just wrestlers? It’s a resounding yes! Wrestling prepares you for the world. It gives you everlasting bonds with teammates, friends, and family that have been through the storm with you. It pushes you in ways others cannot and gives you something to hang your hat on at the end of the day.
The physical toll your body endures in a wrestling season is easily comparable to some of the most grueling sports. In a mere second, wrestling can be just as humbling as it is rewarding. It taxes your body and your mind and it makes you wonder, ”What the heck am I thinking?” Being able to answer to these moments helps you grow as an athlete and echoes inside and out of the wrestling room.
When you go on to Google and type, “What is wrestling?”, the answer you will get is, “The sport or activity of grappling with an opponent and trying to throw or hold them down on the ground...” While these simply sum up the sport in a simple description, wrestling is more than just “roughing around.” It’s a way of life and a damn good one!