J’den Cox is in a new weight class and looking for another medal at the world championships.
The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist wrestler took a big step toward that on Saturday when he clinched a spot on the 2018 U.S. world team with an impressive victory over Hayden Zillmer in the Final X series in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Cox, who followed up his Olympic podium finish in the 86-kilogram weight class with another bronze medal at the 2017 world championships, was one of six U.S. men’s and women’s freestyle wrestlers who clinched berths on the world team Saturday.
The 2018 Senior World Wrestling Championships will be held Oct. 20-28 in Budapest, Hungary.
When United World Wrestling created the 92 kg. weight class this year, Cox moved up from 86 kg. He defeated Zillmer in the U.S. Open final, scoring just two points, then followed that up with another win Saturday. He won the best-of-three series in two consecutive matches, finishing the second one with a 10-0 technical fall.
Adam Coon, who won a spot on the world team in Greco-Roman on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was stopped by reigning world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski in his attempt at a double qualification. Gwiazdowski won the 125 kg. spot by scores of 6-1 and 6-1.
Winning a spot on the men’s team at 61 kg. was Nahshon Garrett, who lost to Joe Colon in the U.S. Open final but came back Saturday for a 5-7, 10-5, 12-0 win.
In the women’s 53 kg. final, Sarah Hildebrandt did not give up a point in two matches against 2016 Olympian Haley Augello and advanced to the world team for the second straight year with a 6-0, 8-0 victory.
Joining her on the women’s team are five-time U.S. Open champion Whitney Conder, who made her fourth world team by defeating Victoria Anthony 10-4, 2-4, 11-0 in the 50 kg. final, and Forrest Molinari, who defeated Julia Salata in the 65 kg. final, 5-0 and 10-2.
Saturday’s competition was the third of three Final X meets.
The only world team spot not yet decided is the women’s 57 kg. Helen Maroulis, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, had her match against Alex Hedrick delayed because of an injury to Maroulis. She is a three-time world medalist and the first U.S. women’s wrestler to win Olympic gold.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is sports editor of the Cape Cod Times and a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.