Missouri junior J’den Cox is Rio de Janeiro-bound — and he did in gold-medal style.
Cox won the 86-kilogram freestyle wrestling crown Sunday during a World Olympic Games Qualifying Tournament in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and, in doing so, also clinched a berth at the 2016 Olympics this August in Brazil.
The top three finishers in each class at the meet earned Olympic berths, but Cox left no doubt his worthiness for international wrestling’s biggest stage, outscoring his opponents 36-3 in a five-match sweep.
Shortly before 1 a.m. local time Sunday, Cox dominated Uzbekistan’s Umidjon Ismanov 5-2 in the semifinals, guaranteeing his spot in the Olympics. Ismanov’s only points came when the referee twice put Cox on the shot clock and he failed to score during the next 30 seconds. Meanwhile, Cox scored two takedowns and also earned a point for a push-out during the second period.
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During the final, Cox was even more dominant, posting a 6-0 win in the final against Venezuela’s Pedro Ceballos Fuentes. It was Cox’s third shutout in five matches.
Cox joins Ben Askren as Mizzou’s second Olympic wrestling qualifier. Askren, MU’s only other two-time NCAA champion, competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Last month, Cox qualified for the USA Wrestling U.S. Olympic Team Trials by winning his second NCAA championship at 197 pounds. Cox made the most of that opportunity, upsetting his way to an entirely different national crown despite drawing the No. 9 seed at the Olympic trials in Iowa City, Iowa.
The U.S. team hadn’t placed high enough at the 2015 World Championships or the subsequent Pan-Am Games to automatically qualify its 86-kilogram champion for the Rio Olympics, which necessitated Cox make the more than 6,300-mile trek to Mongolia.
Cox opened the tourney with an 11-0 technical fall against Armenia’s Shamir Atyan. The match lasted about 3 minutes. During the second round, Cox cruised again, whipping Greece’s Timofei Xenidis 10-0 for another technical fall in fewer than 90 seconds.
Advancing to the quarterfinals, Cox coughed up his first point and trailed for the first and only time in the tournament when Poland’s Zbigniew Baranowski scored a push-out in the opening 30 seconds. Less than a minute later, Cox took a lead he’d never relinquish with a takedown and added another takedown in the match’s dying seconds for a 4-1 win.