RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Mizzou Wrestling senior and Team USA 86-kg freestyle wrestler J’den Cox (Columbia, Mo.) earned an Olympic bronze medal with a thrilling win over Cuba’s Reineris Salas Perez at Carioca Arena 2 on Saturday afternoon.
With the medal, Cox becomes the seventh University of Missouri athlete to win a medal at the Olympics – and the first since 2008 – joining Brutus Hamilton, Jackson Scholz, Dan Pippin, Dick Cochran, Natasha Kaiser (Brown) and Christian Cantwell in the exclusive club. It wrapped up an amazing day of competition in which Cox didn’t allow a single takedown.
In the final match, Cox earned a first-period shot-clock point to take the lead. Cox was put on the shot clock himself late in the bout, and with just six seconds remaining, and after an American challenge and lengthy video review, Cox was awarded a takedown and the winning two points. Salas Perez refused to take the mat for the final six seconds, and was disqualified from the competition.
In his opening-round bout, Cox cruised past Amarhajy Mahamedau (Belarus), 7-1, to advance to the quarterfinals. Cox was aggressive throughout the duration of the match, scoring two takedowns in the first period while adding another in the second along with a step out point to clinch the victory and advance to the finals.
In the quarterfinals, Cox matched up with 2015 World bronze medalist Alireza Mohammed Karimimachiani (Iran), a rematch from the UWW Men’s Freestyle World Cup in Los Angeles on June 12 where Cox defeated the Iranian, 6-2. Cox wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the opening period, scoring on a push out in the first minute to grab a 1-0 lead. The score was tied, 1-1, heading into the second period before Cox registered two takedowns to eliminate Karimimachiani and advance to the semifinals.
Cox fell just short of advancing to the gold medal match against World No. 4 Selim Yasar (Turkey) in the semifinals, 2-1. In the first period, Cox was put on the shot clock due to passivity. He failed to score on a takedown, giving Yasar a point and the lead, 1-0. Cox scored on a push out point to knot the score, 1-1, in the second, but Yasar still had the criteria advantage due to the penalty point given to Cox in the first period. Team USA challenged a takedown near the end of the second period, but the challenge was unsuccessful, giving Yasar another point and the win, 2-1.
The bronze medal wraps up an incredible five months for Cox. The Tiger’s transition from college folkstyle to international freestyle started immediately after capturing his second NCAA National Championship on March 19 in New York City. Cox’s 4-2 win over top-seeded Morgan McInstosh (Penn State) earned him a berth at the U.S. Olympic Trials, which he won on April 10, then officially qualified Rio on April 24 with a championship at the World Games Qualifying Tournament in Mongolia.