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