COLUMBIA — Hickman wrestler J’den Cox’s opponents might have underestimated him at the beginning of the season, with Cox being a freshman in a senior-dominated weight class.
No one is underestimating him anymore.
Cox won the 171-pound MSHSAA Wrestling State Championship on Saturday at Mizzou Arena by defeating Lafayette senior Andrew Early 5-0.
“If this hasn’t proven that I can do this with anybody at 171, then I don’t know what will,” Cox said.
Cox finished the season with a 54-3 record, and at the 2010 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships, defeated three seniors and a junior.
“The kids that have wrestled him throughout the year realized that he’s a strong competitor and that he’s going to battle,” Hickman coach J.D. Coffman said. “Somebody new comes along, and they may have underestimated him. They might have been thinking he is still a freshman, and that he can’t live up to the hype.”
Freshman were in the minority at the 2010 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships, making up only 10 percent of the wrestlers, but a large part of those were in lower weight classes. Cox was the only freshman in his bracket, and no freshman wrestler qualified for state at a weight class higher than 171.
Cox, who won eight youth state championships, dominated the high school state championship match against Early. In the first period, Cox scored a takedown, followed by an escape and another takedown in the second period, and was able to control Early in the third to hold onto the victory.
“It hasn’t really settled in,” Cox said. “I didn’t plan for this. I always believed I could do it, but I knew it would take work. My goal is the same for next year, to try and get a repeat.”
As Cox was standing at the top the podium to receive his medal, Hickman teammate Jake Waldrup kept yelling at Cox to not smile, but Cox couldn’t hold it back.
“This is what I’ve been working for, so I can smile now,” Cox said. “I don’t have to worry about more matches until next year, so I can smile, I can breathe, I can relax.”
Cox is the first Hickman freshman under Coffman to win a state championship and the 31st wrestler in school history to win a state title.
Rock Bridge sophomore Trent Johnson, juniors Josh Gaskins and Josh Braselton, and senior Will Evans, as well as Hickman sophomore Will Owens, were eliminated in the earlier rounds of the state meet. Gaskins and Owens finished 0-2, Johnson finished 1-2, and Braselton and Evans finished 2-2.