COLUMBIA, Mo. – Mizzou Wrestling head coach Brian Smith has named three-time NCAA National Champion J’den Cox (Columbia, Mo.) as the program’s volunteer assistant coach, as announced on Thursday. In addition to joining the wrestling staff, Cox will continue to wrestle in international competitions under the Missouri Wrestling Foundation, beginning with the U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials June 9-10, in Lincoln, Neb.
“J’den treats the sport of wrestling with great respect and is an amazing student of the sport,” Smith said. “He will be a fantastic coach because of the positivity he brings to the mat and his dedication to helping our program reach its full potential. On the mat, J’den knows the importance of being technical and having the right mindset going into matches, as well as the role nutrition plays toward the success of a wrestler. With recruiting, he’s going to be the person I point to when conversing with recruits and say, ‘you can accomplish everything J’den did and more while at Mizzou.’”
Cox concluded his illustrious Mizzou wrestling career this past March by winning his third NCAA National title at 197 pounds, becoming the second four-time All-American in program history and first to reach the top of the podium three times. He ended the season second in Dan Hodge Trophy voting with a perfect 28-0 record, becoming just the second wrestler in program history to finish the season with an unblemished record. In 2014, the hometown Tiger became the first wrestler in program history to win a national title as a true freshman, and after a fifth-place finish in 2015, Cox returned to the pinnacle of collegiate wrestling with a national title in 2016 at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m appreciative of the opportunity to continue my journey with the Mizzou Wrestling program,” said Cox. “I’m thankful they have given me another door to walk through as a coach. I look forward to being able to work with and continue to train with the great wrestlers in our room.”
In the Mizzou Wrestling record book, Cox ranks first in winning percentage among wrestlers with over 100 wins (.965, 136-5), tied for second in overall wins (136), second in career technical falls (20), third in career major decisions (31) and tied for eighth in career falls (27).
Between his second and third national titles, Cox represented the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where he won a bronze medal in men’s freestyle wrestling at 86 kg. Just two weeks following his collegiate triumph in New York City, Cox began his journey to Olympic bronze by winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa. Cox entered the trials as the No. 9 seed and proceeded to defeat two-time All-American Clayton Foster, 2012 Olympian Jake Herbert and 2008 National Champion Keith Gavin just to reach the finals, where he drew four-time NCAA Champ Kyle Dake. In the finals, Cox outlasted Dake in a two-out-of-three finals series to earn his spot on the national team.
Not yet qualified for the Olympics, Cox traveled to Mongolia in April to wrestle in the World Games Qualifying Tournament, where Cox dominated the competition in a first-place finish, winning five matches by a combined score of 36-3. After a flurry of trips to Colorado Springs, New York, Los Angeles and Germany with the U.S. National Team in preparation for Olympics, Cox arrived in Rio in August and competed in the 31st Olympiad on August 20. After a setback in the semifinals, Cox rebounded to defeat Cuba’s Reineris Salas Perez in the bronze medal match to become the seventh University of Missouri athlete to win a medal at the Olympics.
Cox will assume his volunteer assistant role on May 15 following his graduation from the University of Missouri.