Catch a Tiger by the toe, the ankle, the leg… nobody can get a good hold on any part of this Tiger at the moment.
Fresh off a second straight NCAA championship, University of Missouri wrestler J'den Cox was the man of the meet this past weekend with a surprise win at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa, giving him a chance to secure a trip to the Olympics in Rio.
— USA Wrestling (@USAWrestling) April 12, 2016
While Cox qualified for the U.S. team, he still doesn't have a ticket to the Olympics because the United States hasn't yet qualified his weight class, 86 kilos. Cox will have two chances to punch his ticket to the summer games, the first later this month in Mongolia, and if he fails to place there, he'll get one last shot early next month in Turkey.
Cox said afterward that it was sort of a last-minute decision to even go to the Trials – saying he had thought about not competing because of unspecified "body issues" that he needed to take care of.
"But hey, I showed up," Cox said.
And did he.
Cox caught the class by surprise, after entering the Trials as the No. 9 seed, and beating top seed and 2012 Olympian Jake Herbert 8-1 on his way to the final. Cox defeated opponents with 15 combined NCAA titles on the road to the win.
Cox then beat four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake twice in a best of three final, winning the first match and then narrowly defeating Dake in the final match, avoiding a last-second push-out for the win.
"I think the more I'm not supposed to win, the more I just don't care," Cox said. "What's the pressure, if I'm not supposed to win? So I might as well go out there and give everything I've got…. I was telling (people) 'I'm not nervous at all, I'm ready to go.'"
USA Wrestling named Cox its Athlete of the Week after his effort in the Trials.
"I'm just excited, I'm blessed, I'm lovin' it," Cox said after his win. "Going into the third match, I don't know, I just had a confidence. I knew I could do it … I knew I could accomplish this goal."
Cox, who stayed at home to wrestle for Mizzou after winning four high school state championships for Hickman High in Columbia, has a year of eligibility left in Columbia, but already is touted as one of the best ever wrestlers to wear the Tiger-striped singlet. Cox is also a three-time All-American.
— Cat Kennebeck (@catttttk) April 12, 2016
Cox will now represent the USA in one, or, if necessary, two "last-chance" qualifiers to try to earn the spot in Rio. He'll compete April 22-24 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where the top three placers will qualify for the Olympics. If he doesn't qualify then, he'll have one more shot, May 6-8 in Istanbul, where the top two wrestlers in the weight will qualify. If he were to make it to Rio, Cox would be the second Olympic wrestler from Mizzou, following Ben Askren who qualified for the 2008 Beijing games.