COLUMBIA — Missouri wrestler J'den Cox is looking forward to competing against some of the world's best wrestlers Saturday at the World Team Trials in Wisconsin.
Cox, who received an automatic entry into the trials by winning the NCAA national title in the 197 lb. weight class in March, will be competing at the 97 kg. (213 lb.) level during the trials.
The Hickman High School graduate and four-time Missouri state champion will compete in a tournament Saturday morning, and the winner will face reigning Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner.
Varner, who has an automatic bye to wrestle in the best-of-three finals Saturday night, was victorious at the 2014 U.S. Open in April, according to USA Wrestling.
But Cox said he is excited for the opportunity to face Varner and other top qualifiers, which includes the top six finishers from the U.S. Open, the 2013 Trials runner-up Chris Pendleton and national team member Dustin Kilgore.
"I know some of the people in the bracket, but I'm just excited to get on the mat with the best," he said. "I've said I want to be the best, and the way you do that is you go and compete against the best."
Cox, whose normal weight is around 208 lbs., said the change in level allowed him to eliminate the struggle of slimming down before the trials and focus solely on wrestling.
He is coming off a semifinal loss to runner-up Lucas Sheridan at the ASICS University Freestyle Nationals last weekend in Akron, Ohio, but said the tournament is behind him.
"I learned from it," he said. "You can't go back and change it, you've got to move on."
Cox rebounded and defeated Alex Polizzi to claim third place in his division.
The champion at the trials will advance to the World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in September.