Underrated Greats: Appreciating J’den Cox
Fame is fleeting, but underlying and long-term ability is what makes for greatness in the world of martial arts. J’den Cox is an American wrestler and Olympian hailing from Columbia, Missouri.
Born in 1995, he competed on his high school wrestling team at David H Hickman high school and wrestled in college for the University of Missouri Tigers. In college he was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion and a four-time All-American, earning his first national title in 2014 as a freshman. During his college career, he took home the gold in his NCAA division one wrestling championships in 2014, 2016, and 2017. During the 2015 championships, he placed a disappointing fifth place.
The road to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games was the start of a very busy year for J’den, starting with the 2016 US Olympic team trials in Iowa City, Iowa. On April 10 of 2016 he decisively beat Keith Gavin 3-1, Jake Herbert 8–1, and Clayton Foster 7-7, and then have three matches with Kyle Dake – 8-1, 3-5 loss, 4-3 - to win the right to advance to qualification tournaments.
The 2016 Olympic qualification tournament around one was held two weeks later on April 24 in a place very far from Iowa - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. During the tournament, he beat Shamir Atyan of Armenia 11-0, Timofei Xenidis of Greece 10-0, Zbigniew Baranowski of Poland 4-1, Umidjon Ismanov of Uzbekistan 5-2, and Pedro Ceballos Fuentes of Venezuela 6-0.
The Road to Rio
However, there were two more stops on the way to Rio de Janeiro. The first stop was Beat the Streets in New York City, where he won against Meisam Mostafa-Jokar of Iran by 10-5, followed by 2016 Men’s World Cup for Freestyle Wrestling was held in Los Angeles, on June 11 and 12. Over the course of two days, he faced and defeated three out of his four opponents Pawan Kumar of India 13-2, Alireza Karimi of Iran 6-2, and Aleksander Gostiev of Azerbaijan 3-2 before losing to Dato Marsagishvili of Kazakhstan.
The last stop on July 2, was the 2016 Grand Prix of Germany held in Dortmund where he likewise defeated three out of his four opponents. He won three of his matches, facing Kanat Berdiyev of Kazakhstan for the win, losing next to Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan, then winning against Konstantin Voelk of Germany and Adilet Dalumbaev of Kazakhstan 4-7.
J'den At The 2016 Summer Olympics
The Summer Olympics Freestyle wrestling event took place on August 19 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. J’den 13 out of his four matches, going on to win a bronze medal. He won against Amarhajy Mahamedau of Belarus and rematched with World Cup opponent Alireza Karimi of Iran at 5-1, Reineris Salas of Cuba forfeited for a 3-1 win, though J’den lost his match to Turkey’s Selim Yasar 1-2. He made it to the podium and proudly claimed his bronze medal – a feat that few can ever dream of, and fewer still attain.
Cox's Post Olympics Career
The years since the 2016 Summer Olympics have been busy for J’den. 10 months after taking the bronze at the Summer Olympics, J’den entered the 2017 US World Team Trials in Lincoln, Nebraska where he defeated David Taylor two out of three – 5-3, 4-3 to 3-9, and subsequently presented at the 2017 World Championships in Paris, France where he underwent five matches on August 25, placing third. He won four out of his five matches against Ahmed Dudarov of Germany 6-1, Ville Heino of Finland 9-6, Mihail Ganev of Bulgaria 8-2, and again met Zbigniew Baranowski from the 2016 Olympic qualifications and won again, this time 3-2. He lost one match to Boris Makoev of Slovakia 3-6.
If anything, 2018 was a far busier year than 2017 and 2016 combined. It began in February with the 2018 international Ukrainian tournament in Kiev, Ukraine. In four matches, he suffered one defeat but took four wins, and met again with two previous opponents, placing second overall in the field. He met and defeated Shamir Atyan of Armenia 11-0 after having previously met him in the 2016 Olympic qualification tournament, and he also won his matches against Edgarus Voitechovskij of Lithuania 7-1, Riley Lefever of the USA 2-0. However, he took a lawsuit against another previous opponent Sharif Sharifov - previously faced in the 2016 Grand Prix of Germany - of Azerbaijan 7-8.
In April, he swept all of his matches at the 2018 U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Nevada, becoming the champion. He faced and won Jeremiah Imonode 10-0, Tanner Orndorff 10-0, Deron Winn 3-0, and Hayden Zillmer 2-0. From there, J’den competed in New York City’s beat the streets where he won his match against Cuba’s Yurieski Torreblanca Queralta 2-1. On June 23, he won two matches against previous U.S. Open opponent Hayden Zillmer 5-2 and 10-0. However, he suffered a loss against Serdar Boke of Turkey in Turkey’s top wrestling event, the Yaşar Doğu losing 2-2.
However, after that defeat, it’s been nothing but wins! Starting in October 2018 at the 2018 world championships in Budapest, J’den one all of his matches over the 21st and 22nd to become the champion. He defeated Dato Marsagishvili of Georgia 6-2, Nicolae Ceban of Moldova 6-0, Ivan Yankouski of Belarus 4-1, and also met and defeated Alireza Karimi of Iran 5-2 after facing him at both the 2016 World Cup and Summer Olympics. Likewise, he won his matches at the 2019 Pan-American championship held in when authorities, Argentina. On April 21 of 2019, he defeated Jaime Espinal of Puerto Rico 8-0 and Diego Ramirez Florentin of Paraguay with a fall.
A return to New York City for the 2019 Beat the Streets saw him triumph over Patrick Brucki 13-0, and in Piscataway, New Jersey he beat Bo Nickal of the USA in two matches 4-2 and 5-0 at the 2019 US World Team Trials. Most recently, J’den reappeared at Turkey’s 2019 Yaşar Doğu where he again won all four of his matches to become the tournament’s champion by defeating Abubakar Turgayev of Kazakhstan 11-0, Mohammed Fardj of Algeria 11-0, Shamil Zubairov of Azerbaijan 11-0, and Bendeguz Toth of Hungary 10-0.
What a streak!
Far from being the most “underrated wrestler there’s ever been,” J’den’s career seems to be taking off in a spectacular fashion. Very hard to underrate such dedication and hard work, when the results are so definitive. Everyone should look forward to seeing more wins and more medals from one of the hardest working men in the sport.