The Maneater

J’den Cox wins bronze medal at wrestling World Championships

Former Mizzou wrestler and Olympic medalist J’den Cox goes 4-1 at Senior World Championships in Paris.

J'den Cox wrestles at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Courtesy of USA Wrestling/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com

Just when it seemed like wrestler J’den Cox’s extensive catalogue of accolades couldn’t grow any more immense, the Olympic bronze medalist and three-time NCAA champion for Mizzou delivered again at a premier event.

The former Mizzou Wrestler won the bronze medal for freestyle in the 86-kilogram weight class at the 2017 World Championships in Paris on Friday. He finished with a record of 4-1 on the day after entering the competition ranked fifth in the world in his weight class.

Several hours after suffering his only loss of the day in the semifinals, Cox clinched the bronze with a convincing 8-0 defeat of Bulgarian and 2010 World Champion Mihail Ganev.

“It was a tough day,” Cox told USA Wrestling. “I had some tough matches. I didn’t come out on top in one of them, but I ended the day on a high note.”

Wrestlers had to win three straight times to reach the semifinals and ensure a spot in the medal rounds. While the morning hours were ticking away back home in Columbia, Cox was overseas, competing in the early rounds to earn that opportunity.

Cox, a 22-year-old freestyle specialist, started off against Germany’s Ahmed Dudarov. He was stymied early on, trailing 1-0 at the end of the first period, but dominated the rest of the way to cruise to a 6-1 victory.

Next was a second-round clash against another NCAA wrestler out of Campbell University, Finland’s Ville Heino. Cox’s medal hopes seemed dashed as he again got off to a slow start, falling into a much greater deficit this time. But down 6-0 late in the first period, he landed a four-point takedown that cut Heino’s lead to two going into the break.

The blow catapulted Cox to another commanding second period. He tied it up and took the lead with a pair of two-point takedowns, then capped the improbable comeback with another point by forcing Heino to step out. The 9-6 thriller sent Cox through to the quarterfinals to face Zbigniew Baranowski of Poland.

In a tight match, Baranowski tied Cox at two with a second period takedown, but the Columbia, Missouri, native reclaimed the lead with another step-out point. It would prove to be the difference in another dramatic win for Cox, as he held off attacks and ran out the clock to secure a 3-2 final victory.

In the semifinals, however, Slovakian Boris Makoev proved to be too much for Cox. Down 6-0 again, Cox cut the lead in half but ran out of time, as his second comeback came up short.

“I wrestled really bad,” Cox told USA Wrestling. “My body was feeling bad, I was hurting. No excuses though. When I show up to the mat, I am ready to go. Sometimes, the other guys out-did me in the battles. At the end of the day, I had fun.”

After several hours of rest, Cox was back in action in a clash against Ganev and with a medal on the line. Cox only led 1-0 after the first period, but he again took control after the break, landing three takedowns en route to a runaway 8-0 victory.

This bronze medal will add to Cox’s vast collection of hardware. He has thrived in national and international competition over the last three years. Along with being thrust into the international spotlight during his 2016 Rio Summer Olympics bronze medal run for the United States, he placed third in the 2016 Grand Prix of Germany and fourth at the U.S. Open in 2015.

Cox is also well known for his success as a Missouri Tiger. A four-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion, Cox decided earlier this year to stay with the Mizzou wrestling program as a volunteer assistant coach for the upcoming season. He ended his Mizzou career with a 28-0 senior campaign that saw him win his third national title.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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