FLASH: J’Den Cox reaches finals and qualifies for Rio Olympic Games at World Olympic Qualifier in Mongolia

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | April 24, 2016, 2:07 a.m. (ET)
J'Den Cox scores points in a preliminary match at the World Olympic Qualifier in Mongolia. By reaching the finals, he has secured his spot at the Rio Olympics. Photo by Dr. Fred Roberto

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia - J’den Cox (Columbia, Mo./Missouri WF) won four straight bouts at 86 kg/213 lbs. to reach the finals and qualify himself for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with an impressive showing at the World Olympic Qualifier on Sunday.

In the semifinals, Cox defeated 2013 Asian champion Umidjon Ismanov of Uzbekistan, 5-2. Cox scored a first-period takedown but gave up a point on the shot clock, and led at the break, 2-1. Cox got a pushout and Ismanov scored again on the shot clock to make it 3-2 in the second period. A single leg late in the period gave Cox his final 5-2 margin of victory.

The top three in each weight class qualifies their nation for the Olympic Games. By making the finals, Cox qualified the USA to compete in Rio. Cox won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa on April 10, so the victory gives him a berth in the Olympic Games.

Cox will face Pedro Ceballos Fuentes of Venezuela in the gold-medal finals, which are scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in Mongolia, which is 1:00 a.m. in the U.S. Eastern time zone.

Cox opened with an impressive 11-0 technical fall over Shamir Atyan of Armenia, who had been fifth at the European Olympic Qualifier. Cox got his offense rolling, scoring four takedowns and getting a point on a challenge to lead 9-0. Then he locked up a cradle to turn him for two and end the bout.

Cox next took out Timofei Xenidis of Greece, who was seventh in European Olympic Qualifier with a quick 10-0 first-period technical fall. Cox scored a takedown and two gutwrenches to lead 6-0, then got another takedown and a gutwrench for the 10 point margin.

In the quarterfinals, Cox had a close battle with 2014 World Team member Zbigniew Baranowski of Poland, pulling out a 4-1 win. Baranowski scored first on a stepout, but Cox scored a takedown to lead 2-1 at the break. In the second period there was no scoring until just three seconds left, when a Cox ankle pick takedown iced the win.

Cox is completing his junior year at Missouri, where he is a two-time NCAA champion and three-time All-American. Cox wrestled at 197 pounds in college, and decided to make the drop to 189 pounds for freestyle, a move which will send him to compete in the Olympic Games in Brazil this August.

Frank Molinaro (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) was eliminated at 65 kg/143 lbs. after going 1-1 in his matches.

In his first match, Molinaro scored a 10-0 technical fall over Xuan Dinh Nguyen of Vietnam. Molinaro led 2-0 at the break, but opened up his offense in the second period, scoring two counter exposures and two takedowns to close out the victory.

In the second round, Molinaro was edged by two-time World medalist Yakup Gor of Turkey, 6-4. Gor, a 2014 World silver medalist and a 2015 World bronze medalist at 70 kg was big for this weight class.

Molinaro fell behind 0-1 when he did not score on the shot clock, but scored a takedown to lead 2-1 at the break. In the second period, Gor earned a pair of pushouts to lead 3-2. Molinaro powered forward on the edge looking for a pushout, when Gor rotated and they went out of bounds. Officials gave a takedown to Gor, and the USA challenged. It took a long time and several views before officials gave Gor the takedown and one for the failed protest to lead 6-2. Molinaro went hard and closed it to 6-4 when time ran out.

Gor won two more matches to make the semifinals against 2016 Asian champion Adam Batirov of Bahrain. Batirov was fifth in the 2011 World Championships for Russia, and did not compete until this year for Bahrain. He shut down Gor, scoring on leg attacks for a 7-2 win. When Gor did not reach the finals, Molinaro was not eligible for the repechage rounds.

The USA qualified three athletes for the Olympic Games during the event this weekend, with Helen Maroulis (Rockville, Md./Titan Mercury WC) at 53 kg/116.5 lbs. and Haley Augello (Lockport, Ill./New York AC) at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. earning Olympic berths in women’s freestyle on Saturday.

The USA has now qualified 12 athletes to compete in the Olympic Games. The USA has six more weight classes which have not been qualified, three in Greco-Roman, two in women’s freestyle and one in men’s freestyle. The last opportunity to qualify is the final World Olympic Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey, May 6-8.

A number of athletes who wrestled in college in the United States were entered for other nations. Two reached the semifinals, Boris Novachkov of Bulgaria at 65 kg (who wrestled for Cal Poly) and Georgi Ivanov of Bulgaria at 74 kg (who wrestled for Boise State and Nebraska-Omaha).

Ivanov won his semifinal over Mihaly Nagy of Hungary and reached the finals, to earn a spot in the Rio Olympic Games. He faces Soner Demirtas of Turkey in the finals.

Novachkov was defeated in his semifinal by Zurabi Iakobishvili of Georgia, 5-4. He won his bronze medal match over Devid Safaryan of Armenia by technical fall, 11-0. He will face Yakup Gor of Turkey in the Olympic Qualification match in the finals session. If he wins, he qualifies for the Rio Olympics.

Dave Habat of Slovenia, who wrestled for Edinboro, won his first two matches, then was defeated in the quarterfinals. He was pulled back into repechage, where he won another bout, putting him in a bronze-medal match against Yakup Gor of Turkey. Gor defeated Habat, 6-0, and he could not advance.

United World Wrestling is providing a live webstream and updated brackets on its official website.

Click Here for the UWW video and results page – Mongolian Qualifier

At Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, April 24, 2016

U.S. men’s freestyle results so far

65 kg/143 lbs. – Frank Molinaro, State College, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC), dnp
WIN Xuan Dinh Nguyen (Vietnam), tech. fall 10-0
LOSS Yakup Gor (Turkey), 4-6

86 kg/189 lbs. – J’Den Cox, Columbia, Mo. (Missouri Wrestling Foundation), in gold medal match
WIN Shamir Atyan (Armenia), tech. fall 11-0
WIN Timofei Xenidis (Greece), tech. fall 10-0
WIN Zbigniew Baranowski (Poland), 4-1
WIN Umidjon Ismanov (Uzbekistan), 5-2
Gold Medal Match – Vs. Pedro Ceballos Fuentes (Venezuela)

57 kg/125.5 lbs. – Ivan Guidea (Romania) vs. Jirjalal Hasan-Zada (Azerbaijan)
65 kg/143 lbs. – Zurabi Iakobishvili (Georgia) vs. Adam Batirov (Bahrain)
74 kg/163 lbs. – Soner Demirtas (Turkey) vs. Giorgi Ivanov (Bulgaria)
86 kg/189 lbs. - J’Den Cox (USA) vs. Pedro Ceballos Fuentes (Venezuela)
97 kg/213 lbs. – Georgii Ketoev (Armenia) vs. Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan)
125 kg/275 lbs. – Daniel Ligeti (Hungary) vs. Zhewei Deng (China)