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University of Missouri

Madison Square J’den

J’den Cox wins national wrestling championship title.

Cox celebrating

J’den Cox celebrates his victory at the 2016 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The junior psychology major won the national title in the 197-pound division. Photo by Shane Epping.

New York’s Madison Square Garden has hosted NBA and NHL championships, the “Fight of the Century” and even a visit from Pope John Paul II. You’ll forgive J’den Cox, Mizzou’s two-time national champion wrestler, if he’s only mildly impressed.

I mean, it was cool,” says Cox, who defeated Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh to take the 197-pound crown in the iconic arena March 19, 2016. “I could be in someone’s basement if it was the national championship.”

The venue’s historic significance hit home after his moment of triumph, but it’s Cox’s singular pre-match focus that has helped him dominate the mat. The junior psychology major from Columbia won the same title two years ago in St. Louis, placed fifth in 2015 and now boasts an astonishing 108–5 record, the best win percentage (.955) of any wrestler with more than 100 wins in program history. He joins hall-of-famer Ben Askren, BA ’07, in the record books, becoming Mizzou’s second two-time national champion.

As a team, the Tigers finished the tournament in sixth place with 74.5 points and four All-Americans: redshirt junior, 149-pounder Lavion Mayes (Mascoutah, Illinois); redshirt freshman, 165-pounder Daniel Lewis (Blue Springs, Missouri); redshirt sophomore, 184-pounder Willie Miklus (Altoona, Iowa); and Cox.

We lost some heartbreakers in the All-American round, but overall we are pleased with our outcome,” says seven-year head coach Brian Smith.

Next up for Cox? A trip to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which he earned by dominating the 86-kg field at the World Games Qualifying Tournament in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

The thing about wrestlers is there is no professional thing we can go to,” Cox says. “This is really it, so just knowing that makes it even that much more precious.”