COLUMBIA — J'den Cox is not only a national collegiate champion wrestler; he can also sing.
Cox sang the national anthem at Mizzou Arena to begin the opening ceremonies of the 30th annual Show-Me State Games on Friday night.
A rising sophomore, Cox is a veteran of the games and competed as a wrestler from age 5 until he reached high school. He started competing in the games around the same time he took up singing.
“My whole family is musical,” Cox said. “We all have a musical talent in some sort.”
Cox sang the national anthem at several events during his freshman year at MU, including at a softball game against Georgia and the Tiger Wrestling Classic.
Although wrestling and singing seem like they have nothing in common, Cox finds similarities.
“I compare wrestling to writing a song,” Cox said. “You’re telling your own story that has a beginning, middle, and end.”
Cox was one of five MU athletes who gave motivational speeches to several hundred young athletes in the crowd at the ceremonies, along with football players Evan Boehm and Kentrell Brothers, women's basketball player Morgan Eye and softball player Taylor Gadbois. The guest speakers also recited the Oath of Athletes and Oath of Coaches, Parents, and Spectators to inspire good sportsmanship.
“They’re really role models for a lot of our young athletes,” said Emily Lorenz, Show-Me State Games media and marketing coordinator. “They inspire the kids.”
In Cox’s address to the athletes, he said that the key to success is self-belief.
“Nobody’s ever done anything not willing and not able to believe in themselves,” Cox said. “That’s what helps you overcome anything in life.”
When the Show-Me State Games started in 1985, about 600 athletes competed. In 2013, 34,053 athletes competed, according to the games' website.
“We’ve grown so much over the years,” Lorenz said. “We’ve added multiple weekends, different sports, and a torch run.”
Before the ceremony, runners carried the torch from Jefferson City to Columbia. Taileena Oja, 10, winner of eight swimming gold medals during the 2013 games, lit the cauldron to commence the 2014 games.
The games started Friday morning and will run through the remainder of the weekend, picking up again next Friday and concluding July 27. A complete schedule can be found on the games' website.
Supervising editor is Samuel Hardiman.