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J’den Cox Displays Creativity On The Mat In Wrestling And Off It With Music

By Karen Price | Dec. 08, 2020, 1:11 p.m. (ET)

J'den Cox celebrates at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug. 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 

Each Tuesday leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, which will be held in the summer of 2021, TeamUSA.org will introduce you to an athlete you should know prior to Tokyo – as part of the “Tokyo Tuesday” series. There’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Follow along on social media with the hashtag #TokyoTuesday.

 

J’den Cox is known as a world champion freestyle wrestler, a powerhouse on the mat who won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and is looking for gold in Tokyo in 2021. 

There’s another side that Cox also enjoys sharing with the world, especially the wrestling community. Whenever he gets the opportunity to step to the center of the venue at the start of a meet, hold the microphone and sing the national anthem, the gifted vocalist loves seeing the reactions of the people around him who only know him as Cox the wrestler.

“I think it goes to show there’s more to us than a couple minutes scrapping on a mat,” said Cox, 25, from Columbia, Missouri. “In general athletes are a lot more than what they do and have a lot more things they contribute to. I think it’s cool because it also allows me to show there isn’t one image that makes a wrestler.”

A quick search on YouTube will turn up evidence of Cox’s talents both on and off the mat. There’s the video of him playing acoustic guitar and singing an original song he wrote about his time at the University of Missouri, where he was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion, at a fundraiser for the school. Then there’s a video of him singing the national anthem before a baseball game and another of him singing before a football game. 

Cox has also opened Beat the Streets wrestling events and gatherings and meetings at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he lives. 

“Singing the national anthem is the most stressful thing in the world,” he said. “I’ve wrestled in front of thousands and thousands of people around the world, won an Olympic medal, and I don’t feel nervous at all doing that. But when it comes to singing the national anthem? It’s like, man, you have to get it right.”

Cox comes from a musical family.

Mostly.

His father, he said, is not musically inclined.

“He’ll try and sing a song every now and again, and there’s no shame trying,” Cox said.

But his mother, Cathy, is a talented singer and both his parents wanted their children to play instruments growing up. 

“It was a way of broadening us as people and giving us a new experience,” he said.

Cox played the violin and was a member of the school orchestra, but in high school it became too hard to participate in both that and wrestling. He did continue on with choir, however, and then picked up the bass guitar after his church band needed a player.

After that he taught himself guitar and piano and started writing music as well.

“I write words first, then music,” he said, “But not always. A lot of time the words come first then the music, but there are definitely plenty of times where I get the music and then have to get words for it. Typically it’s harder to come up with words when the music comes first.”

In general athletes are a lot more than what they do and have a lot more things they contribute to. I think it’s cool because it also allows me to show there isn’t one image that makes a wrestler.

J'den Cox, Wrestling

When he was 18 years old, Cox started to lose some of his hearing. His partial hearing loss prompted him to learn sign language, which he also enjoys sharing with the wrestling community and fans via social media videos, and he’s also had to make some adjustments when he performs.

“Sometimes if I’m in the middle of a place it can be harder to hear what I’m singing,” said Cox, whose pre-match playlist includes everything from Korn to Moby to Luciano Pavarotti. “I think that’s maybe the hardest thing is just making sure what I’m singing is the right note, because sometimes I’ll undershoot it or overshoot it.”

Cox was about to step into the spotlight once again into a highly-anticipated showdown this past spring when COVID-19 hit. He’s the two-time defending world champion in the 92 kg. weight class, but that won’t be contested in Tokyo. He chose to move up to 97 kg. and was going to wrestle Olympic champion Kyle Snyder for the spot on the 2020 Olympic team before everything was placed on hold. Cox continued to train as much as possible throughout quarantine, keeping in constant contact with coaches, trainers and nutritionists, and also filled his time with other endeavors. He got things done around the house, spoke to schools and organizations about how to work through challenging times and read the Bible from cover to cover. 

Recently, Cox had his own battle with COVID-19.

“The first little bit I didn’t have symptoms, then it came out of nowhere and hit me hard,” he said. “I had pneumonia and had to go to the hospital and get oxygen. I was coughing so bad that talking made me cough so I didn’t speak for two days.”

He’s now on the back end of it and feeling better, he said, and as soon as he gets the all-clear from doctors he’ll get back to training. 

“Getting back into the swing of things and getting ready to go, I’ll be in the greatest shape I can be in and prepare for the Olympic Trials,” he said. “I’ll likely try to find a match before the trials, but we’ll focus on that when I get back on schedule and get ready to rock and roll. I’ve taken this in stride and focused on what I can control. The good thing is I’m hungrier than ever right now to work out, compete, go out and prove myself.”

Karen Price

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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