2008 Mizzou Olympian Ben Askren discusses J’den Cox’s Olympic showing

Askren was a two-time NCAA Champion at Missouri.
Former Missouri wrestler Ben Askren practices in 2009. Maneater File Photo

As a four-time wrestling All-American and two-time NCAA Champion, Missouri graduate Ben Askren knows what it is like to be in the spotlight. The 32-year-old athlete also has Olympic experience — he competed at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Senior J’den Cox is building a similarly impressive wrestling resume. The Columbia native earned his first major international medal on Saturday, taking bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Askren was impressed with Cox’s showing in Rio.

“He didn’t get the color medal that he wanted, but to medal at the Olympics at 21 years old is very impressive,” he said.

Transitioning from the NCAA wrestling style to Olympic freestyle is a difficult task, and Askren said that Cox made it look easy. There are scoring differences between the two wrestling forms, and the crossover between styles normally makes it challenging for college-age wrestlers to make the Olympics.

“It’s a gigantic jump,” Askren said. “J’den made it look really simple in the last six months. I promise you it’s not that simple. Very few people do it as effortlessly as he did. Honestly, it doesn’t really happen.”

Cox’s only slip up in the Olympics came in his semifinal match against Turkey’s Selim Yasar. Cox and Yasar were tied after the six-minute match, but Yasar was awarded the tiebreaker point because Cox had been issued a caution earlier in the match.

Askren said that the officials made the correct call based on Olympic wrestling criteria, and he felt that Cox’s inexperience may have come into play. Despite the one slip-up, Askren was impressed with Cox’s composure.

“It was exciting, intense,” Askren said. “Obviously I was really into the matches. It was fun. For him, I know his journey’s not over.”

Askren feels Cox’s accomplishments are a testament to the Missouri program. He noted that Missouri consistently has All-Americans and a national presence.

Going forward, Askren could see Cox at the top of the podium at either the Olympics or World Championships.

“Sky’s the limit,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Edited by Jeremiah Wooten | jwooten@themaneater.com

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