Mizzou's Cox Faces Busy Summer Leading Up to Olympics

By Lyons, Joe | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 13, 2016 | Go to article overview

Mizzou's Cox Faces Busy Summer Leading Up to Olympics


Lyons, Joe, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Brian Smith was early in his career as wrestling coach at the University of Missouri when he first met 4-year-old J'den Cox.

Cox's older brothers were practicing with the Columbia Wrestling Club at Hearnes Center and his parents were active in the organization. And J'den? Well, he spent a lot of time reading books in Smith's office.

"They wouldn't let him wrestle yet, but I remember this little fat kid would come read in my office during practices," Smith said. "I knew he was pretty bright because of the books he was reading and the little talks we'd have.

"Then, when he started wrestling, he just man-handled those poor kids."

Cox, a two-time NCAA champion who's preparing to represent the United States as a freestyle wrestler in the Rio Olympics this summer, cannot deny being a "little fat kid."

"I probably was," the Mizzou junior said during a recent press conference at Hearnes. "I was almost 12 pounds at birth, so I've always been a big kid."

Smith kept a close eye on young J'den, making him his No. 1 draft pick as coach of a sixth-grade football team.

"My son Quinn is about the same age and I was asked to coach," Smith recalled. "I had no idea who to take, but I knew I wanted J'den because I'd seen the way he wrestled. We were together in sixth grade and again in eighth and had a really good time. We went undefeated, so we had pretty good careers together in wrestling and in football."

At Hickman High in Columbia, Cox excelled in both football and wrestling. In wrestling, he became the first Missouri wrestler to win state titles in four different weight classes, going undefeated over his final three seasons and finishing with a 205-3 career mark.

Cox, who won offseason titles in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling during high school, drew heavy recruiting interest before choosing Mizzou over an offer from USA Wrestling to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

J'den's mom "Cathy reminded me the other day about something we talked about back then," Smith said. "I told her that if J'den got hurt at the Olympic Training Center, nobody would recruit him, but if he came to Missouri, we'd take care of him. I told her that he could make the Olympic team from Mizzou and he's proven me right."

Cox, 21, said he seriously considered going to the Olympic Training Center.

"I sat down and made a T-chart, listing the pluses and minuses of both places and I prayed about it," he said. "I just imagined doing both and Mizzou just felt right. I just knew this was where I was supposed to be."

Cox went 38-2 and won the NCAA title at 197 pounds as a freshman and duplicated the feat in March to cap a 33-1 junior season. His lone loss a controversial disqualification was avenged with a 9-1 major decision in the finals of the conference tournament. …

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