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University of Missouri

Meteoric Tiger

National champion sophomore J’den Cox is poised to break records.

At 19 years of age, J’den Cox might be a bit young to be dispensing advice about success.

But take one look at the Mizzou sophomore wrestler’s record over the past five seasons — 205-3 with four Missouri state championships at Hickman High School and 38-2 with an NCAA championship as a true freshman — and you might listen up.

J'den Cox mizzou wrestling

Columbia native J’den Cox won the 197-pound NCAA championship as a true freshman March 22, 2014, in Oklahoma City. Photo courtesy of Mizzou Athletics.

It’s not so much that Cox despises losing, it’s that he doesn’t even consider it.

“ ‘You are great,’ ” says Cox, outlining his prematch state of mind. “ ‘You’ve done everything you need to do to prepare. Never stop wrestling.’ I feel like I have that mentality all the time.”

Cox enjoys breaking down his psychology, which might be why he chose it as his major. He credits mental discipline for guiding him through a 2-1 victory against Ohio State’s top-seeded Nick Heflin for the 197-pound NCAA title March 22, 2014, in Oklahoma City. It’s the 14th time in the NCAA Championship’s 84-year history a true freshman has been crowned national champion, and Cox expects to make it four straight titles by the time he graduates from Mizzou.

As Cox begins his sophomore season ranked No. 1 in his weight class, the All-American anchors a stout squad ranked No. 7 by Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine headed into the 2014–15 campaign. Two-time All-American Drake Houdashelt (O’Fallon, Missouri), All-American Alan Waters (Kansas City, Missouri) and Joey Lavallee (Reno, Nevada) are other Tiger wrestlers to watch.

“Our goal is to win our fourth straight conference title and be on the podium as a team at the NCAAs,” says head Coach Brian Smith. “I really enjoy the personality of this team. Their approach to practice and training has been very focused, but they are doing it because they love it.”