J’den Cox pushes Missouri wrestling over Cornell

The junior said his dual-winning match solidified his spot on the team.
Junior J’den Cox tries to take down Cornell’s Jeramy Sweany on Jan. 10, 2016, in Jesse Hall. Cox had 10 takedowns in his dual-clinching 24-9 victory.

Junior J’den Cox couldn’t just win.

A win by less than 15 points would’ve meant the end of the streak, an upset at the hands of No. 14 Cornell and a setback for the No. 4 Missouri wrestling team.

No, Cox would have to win big in order to keep the Tigers’ dual-win streak alive. He needed a technical fall, or a win by more than 15 points, to put Missouri ahead in the final match of Sunday’s dual in Jesse Hall.

So Cox put the team on his back. He scored takedown after takedown, 10 in total. With each score, the crowd grew louder and louder. His teammates stood on chairs, pushing him to victory. Then, the clock hit zero and Cox took off running around the mat. An assistant coach picked up coach Brian Smith in celebration. Cox had secured the technical fall by winning 24-9, and the Tigers won 18-17.

“The most exciting match I’ve ever been in, hands down,” Cox said.

In fact, he said the win was better than winning a national championship in 2014 because it was for the team.

“It was the first time where I was put into a position where I had to perform to the best of my ability,” Cox said. “I had to go out there and get the technical.”

Cox said afterward that the added pressure of needing the technical fall didn’t impact him. His strategy in matches is go out and score as many points as possible. He did just that in his previous match against Buffalo’s James Benjamin, winning 19-4. All in all, Cox has recorded six technical falls this season.

Yet Sunday’s match was different. Cox, typically a 197-pounder, wrestled at heavyweight. Smith made the call to move Cox and sophomore Willie Miklus up after a few key losses for the Tigers. After the 174 match in which senior No. 2 Blaise Butler lost 3-2 to No. 6 Brian Realbuto, Smith changed the lineup. Butler’s loss put Missouri down 12-10.

Cox said it’s not easy changing weight classes at the college level.

“But we’ll do anything for this team, and we’ll step up no matter what,” he said.

Cox stressed that Sunday’s win was a team effort.

“Without each person, the Matt Manleys and Mayes coming in, guys getting wins and getting points they needed to, it wouldn’t have been possible,” he said.

Despite the 15-point margin of victory, Cox’s match wasn’t a breeze. Cornell’s Jeramy Sweany had at least 50 pounds on Cox, though Smith wasn’t sure of the exact weight. The match was also physical. Twice, Cox went down to the mat grabbing his eye.

“I got poked in my eye about a thousand times … it was awful, but I had to keep going because if I had to take more injury time, then he would’ve been able to choose positions,” Cox said.

Cox was also awarded a point after Sweany got called for unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing Cox when they were out of bounds.

“The hardest thing was keeping my cool,” Cox said. “I don’t take to that at all. I’m not the person to be stepped over or stepped on. I don’t take it from nobody.”

Instead, Cox just smiled, thinking to himself, “It’s going to be a long day for both of us, but mostly for you.”

“He had no idea what was going to come,” Cox said.

To finish the match, Cox held Sweany down for 42 seconds despite the latter’s efforts to escape.

“I think I finally solidified myself as part of this team,” Cox said.

Cox plans to return to the 197 weight class.

“I don’t want to wrestle heavyweight,” Cox laughed. “I don’t like wrestling heavyweight. They are big, it’s not fun. Apparently, they are mean. I want to go back down and be at home at 197. I think Willie and I will appreciate being back at our respective weights.”

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