Prior to this weekend, J’den Cox had traveled no further from his hometown of Columbia, Missouri, than to Reno, Nevada. Now, after a journey of some 6,300 miles to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, he will get to add to his frequent flyer totals with a trip to Rio de Janeiro to compete in his first Olympic Games.
To claim his ticket to Rio, the two-time NCAA champion for the University of Missouri needed to place in the top three at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Mongolia, and he rolled through the competition in his 86 kg. weight class to do just that. Opening with a pair of technical falls against Armenia’s Shamir Atyan (11-0) and Timofei Xenidis of Greece (10-0), Cox advanced to the semifinals with a 4-1 win over Poland’s Zbigniew Baranowski. In the semifinal round, he faced Umidjon Ismanov of Uzbekistan, earning a 5-2 win to go to the gold-medal bout against Pedro Ceballos Fuentes of Venezuela, which he won 6-0.
Cox had not wandered far from home before this weekend, according to an article in The Kansas City Star. In fact, when he won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa earlier this month, one of the first things he had to do was travel to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for assistance in securing a passport so he could travel to the qualifier in Mongolia. He went to high school at Columbia’s Hickman High School, then stayed in town to wrestle for Mizzou, where he has won two NCAA titles and as many all-America honors. Winning his first NCAA championship as a true freshman, at one point he had compiled a string of 56 consecutive victories as a freshman and sophomore.
Cox joins 11 other wrestlers on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. They are Andy Bisek (75 kg.), Ben Provisor (85 kg.) and Robby Smith (130 kg.) in Greco-Roman; Haley Augello (48 kg.), Helen Maroulis (53 kg.), Elena Pirozhkova (63 kg.) and Adeline Gray (75 kg.) in women’s freestyle; and Daniel Dennis (57 kg.), Jordan Burroughs (74 kg.), Kyle Snyder (97 kg.) and Tervel Dlagnev (125 kg.) in men’s freestyle.
Six other Americans who won at Olympic Trials still must qualify their weight class to compete in Rio. Freestylers Frank Molinaro (65 kg.) on the men’s side and Kelsey Campbell (58 kg.) and Tamyra Mensah (69 kg.) for the women will be joined by Greco-Roman wrestlers Jesse Thielke (59 kg.), RaVaughn Perkins (66 kg.) and Joe Rau (98 kg.) in Istanbul to compete in the final Rio qualifying event May 6-8.