J’den Cox had one hell of a freshman year.
The 197-pounder from Columbia conquered new heights for the Missouri wrestling program, etching his name in the history books next to Tiger legends. After all, he is Missouri’s first true freshman to win a national championship. Class standing aside, he’s the first Tiger to be crowned a national champion since Max Askren in 2010 and the fifth in program history.
Cox captured the national title in Oklahoma City, much to the enjoyment of the small block of Missouri fans.
Dominating from start to finish, his success this past season was unparalleled.
Just don’t tell Cox that. He acknowledges his first year as a success but still calls it “unsatisfying.” He doesn’t plan to be a one-hit wonder.
“It feels good, but I always have more work to do,” Cox said.
While he might not be completely satisfied, he did have a great season. He boasted a record of 38-2 for a .950 winning percentage. It was the best mark posted by a freshman and the third best in program history. At tournaments, Cox found success, as he won four of the five he competed in.
He also won the Mid-American Conference championship at 197 pounds, helping Missouri three-peat at the conference tournament.
At the NCAA wrestling championships in Oklahoma City, Cox’s dominance was on full display. To win the title, he bested a fifth-year senior. While the final match was close, Cox won 2-1. He never gave up a takedown in five bouts.
Winning the title was a dream come true, he said after the championship.
Cox represented both Missouri and the MAC in the final round of the tournament. Out of the 10 wrestlers crowned, he was the only one from the MAC. Acknowledging his accomplishments, the conference dubbed him Wrestler of the Year and Freshman of the Year.
The Hickman High School graduate has put on quite the show, building on the success that made him a household name across the state. The decision to wear the black and gold was an easy one. After committing early in his high school career, he stayed loyal to Missouri wrestling and didn’t test the waters for other offers.
Cox said life as a national champion hasn’t been much different.
“Just a lot more interviews,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s still wrestling. Nothing changes.”
The team doesn’t treat him any differently because everyone in the room wants to be a national champion, he said.
But Cox is more than an individual champion. He emerged as one of the team’s leaders during the season, yet he hasn’t let winning go to this head. Cox is already looking forward to next season and improving in the offseason.
He has to stay hungry, he said. He wants to win four national titles. After distinguishing himself on the mat as a true freshman, look for Cox to own this category in the coming years.