COLUMBIA — Hickman freshman J’den Cox is Hickman’s first freshman to make it to the state finals under coach J.D. Coffman.
After defeating Central’s Josh Phillips 3-1 in the semifinals, all that stands in the way of Cox and a state championship is Lafayette’s Andrew Early, an opponent that Cox defeated twice earlier this season, 5-2 and 6-3.
“Wow,” Cox said. “I always said I would make the finals, but I didn’t expect it to feel so good when I did it. I saw seven seconds left on the clock and I was just like ‘Yes!’ I’m more confident than ever now heading into the finals.”
Cox and Early will meet at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
“He’s going to be looking to do the same thing, but I expect this match to be tougher than the last two,” Cox said. “It’s going to be a tough match no matter what. I’m excited to see what happens.”
Cox, only a 14-year-old freshman, has defeated one junior and two seniors thus far at the 2010 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships. His opponent Saturday, Early, is also a senior. Only 10 percent of the wrestlers competing in the 2010 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships are freshmen.
“I’m not mean enough to say it feels good, but I’m not nice enough to say I’m not happy I won,” Cox said of defeating seniors despite being a freshman. “It’s your last year and you want to go out with a bang, but I want to win it too.”
Cox had a close call in his match against Phillips, and almost didn’t make it to the finals. In the third period, Cox held a one-point lead, but gave up a point for a technical violation for fleeing the mat. Cox then got a takedown, and was able to hang on for 40 seconds for the win.
Hickman coach J.D. Coffman said that Cox’s confidence level has been huge thus far, and will also be an important factor in the state championship Saturday.
“I see how loose he is back here,” Coffman said. “He’s talking to people, he’s wishing everybody else that comes through the tunnel well. And that just goes to show his level of confidence that he’s taking into the matches. He’s got to stay loose and poised tomorrow, as he has been all year.”
Rock Bridge sophomore Trent Johnson, juniors Josh Gaskins and Josh Braselton, and senior Will Evans, as well as Hickman sophomore Will Owens, have been eliminated from the 2010 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships. Gaskins and Owens finished 0-2, Johnson finished 1-2, and Braselton and Evans finished 2-2.