COLUMBIA – Rock Bridge's Josh Braselton is the second best 215-pound wrestler in Missouri according to the Class 4 rankings compiled by missouriwrestling.com. But Friday he is ready to avenge two losses from earlier in the year and claim the top spot.
Standing in Braselton's way is Hickman's J’den Cox, a sophomore who claimed the 2010 Class 4 171-pound state title. Cox, who is currently at No. 1 at 215 pounds in the same rankings, looks to be Braselton's main competition in this weekend's 12-team Hickman tournament.
If Braselton faces Cox, it will not be the first time the two have wrestled. Their first meeting was set for Nov. 30 at Rock Bridge, but Cox was unable to wrestle because of an injury. Braselton and Cox finally faced off at the Lee's Summit Holiday Invitational in December, and Cox won a 6-4 decision. Cox went on to win the tournament and Braselton finished third.
On Jan. 7 the two matched up again when Hickman visited Rock Bridge. Cox took a commanding 7-0 lead after two periods and ended up winning a 9-3 decision over Braselton.
Rock Bridge coach Travis Craig said that Braselton has been working tirelessly to be the best wrestler in the state.
“There are few guys in state that can beat Josh, he has the ability to win state. He’s training to beat J’den,” Craig said. “The thing is, with a guy like J’den you cannot make mistakes.”
Braselton said that he thinks he knows what he has to do to beat Cox and thinks that the last result will not be repeated if the two face off in the tournament.
“The big thing is to be able to stay in good position against him. He likes to move around a lot, I need to slow him down,” Braselton said.
Braselton’s strategy sounds great on paper, but Hickman coach J.D. Coffman describes Cox as having a "different style," a style that is difficult to wrestle against. Coffman went as far as to compare Cox with former Missouri wrestler Ben Askren, a two-time national champion and Olympic qualifier.
“(J’den)’s more of a scrambler, but he can still create offense. Like (Askren), he uses a lot of styles when he wrestles,” Coffman said.
The prospect of Cox wrestling Braselton over the weekend is something that Coffman sees as a possibility. Coffman said he thought that Cox and Braselton would match up "two to three more times" before the season ended. With the two sporting No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Hickman tournament, they will most likely meet there in the finals.
Braselton said he is not treating this tournament any differently and with his weight currently under the 215-pound limit for the weight class, has no worries about making weight for the weekend. He smiles as he says that he can ‘eat all he wants.’
Ultimately, the goal for Braselton and his Rock Bridge teammates is to do well in districts in February, and Craig emphasized the need to perform best in the last month of the season. While Craig acknowledged the Hickman tournament as something that the team wants to win, he said in the grand scheme of things it’s not important.
“I mean, what are people going to remember? Winning the Hickman tournament, or winning districts? You always want your kids to wrestle well, but I want to make sure they peak in February,” Craig said.