J’den Cox has had a month to digest missing the weigh-in deadline at the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials, where he was one of the stars as a reigning Olympic medalist and two-time world champion.
He has since dropped his appeal, spoken out in support of his Olympic champion coach — who told him the wrong time for weigh-ins — and seen others in the wrestling community and on social media turn their backs on him.
“I looked K.J. in his eyes, and I promised him,” Cox said on the Inside Mizzou Athletics podcast of his coach, Kevin Jackson, “I’m going to bring the wrath of God on these people. The wrath of God.”
Cox later conversed with U.S. national team coach Bill Zadick.
“I’m here to destroy people’s lives now,” Cox said he told Zadick. “I’m here to take people out. I’m here to tear up the world. It’s not out of spite. It’s not out of vengeance. It’s just what will be. It’s to prove to everyone what I’ve known and to prove and show what’s been shown in the last two years, that I’m the best wrestler in the world.
“The world is going to burn from how bad I’m going to destroy it. So let’s have some fun.”
Cox took 86kg bronze in Rio while a rising Missouri senior, after his coach all but begged him to enter the 2016 Olympic Trials. He then won the world championships in 2018 and 2019 at 92kg, which is not an Olympic weight class. In the latter, he became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years.
He entered Olympic Trials last month on a 20-plus-match win streak dating to 2018. And he moved up in weight to challenge reigning Olympic champion Kyle Snyder, who had a bye into the 97kg finals.
Cox needed to advance out of early rounds on the first day of the two-day Trials for an anticipated showdown with Snyder on the second day. But Cox never stepped foot on a competition mat in Fort Worth, Texas.
Cox spoke in detail about what happened at morning weigh-ins in the podcast published last week.
He said that Jackson told him the night before that weigh-ins were from 8-8:30 a.m. They arrived at the venue at 7:25. While Cox warmed up, he and Jackson learned that weigh-ins ended at 8, not 8:30.
“Then I started busting my butt, trying to lose some weight,” Cox said. “This was with like 3 to 5 minutes left of weigh-ins.”
It’s common for wrestlers to be a little over weight on the morning of weigh-ins, then burn it off before getting on the scale.
Cox said that he weighed in “.1” over weight. A little bit later, he weighed in again at 96.9kg after the deadline.
“There’s no controversy at that point. Nothing happens,” Cox said. “We made weight. We were told we were good. We walked away. Things were fine.”
At 9:12 a.m., USA Wrestling published a statement that Cox didn’t make weight and was out of the Olympic Trials. Cox, who by then had gotten breakfast, was told that he was out of the tournament.
Cox petitioned to be put back in, saying no announcement was made for weigh-ins to start.
“My point of view was my coach is a USA Wrestling staff member,” Cox said. “So if he tells me that the time of weigh-ins are at 8 to 8:30, what reason do I have to not believe him?”
But Cox did have a WhatsApp message on his phone from two weeks earlier with Olympic Trials procedures that was opened.
“They voted that I wouldn’t wrestle, and I swallowed that, and I accepted that,” Cox said, adding that the result was fair.
Cox offered to make weight later that afternoon, before he would have wrestled his first match. The closer to a match a wrestler has to make weight, the less advantageous it is for the wrestler. He said he would wrestle everybody in the bracket, but the decision was final. He was out of the bracket.
The next day, Cox showed up at Dickies Arena not with his wrestling singlet to compete, but wearing a gray T-shirt and jeans. He posed for pictures with fans and signed autographs with the hashtag #96.9kg.
Snyder won the Olympic spot later that night. Cox gave an interview before the session saying he was still in the appeals process.
He thought about trying to take his case to court, but a legal adviser said it was unlikely he would be allowed to wrestle Snyder for the Olympic spot. Cox didn’t want to make the case about money, plus it would have cost him $60,000 to get to a first ruling, he said.
“It’s my dreamed that’s buried. I’m not going to the Olympics,” he said on the podcast published last week. “Not wrestling, it sucks, man. It’s a disappointment, but also at the same time, I’ve never defined myself as a wrestler.”
Cox said he has tried to uplift Jackson, who remains his coach.
“I still trust K.J. It was a silly mistake,” he said. “I still believe K.J. is one of the best coaches in the world.”
What’s next? Cox will go back down to the non-Olympic 92kg division in a bid to wrestle at the world championships in October. He’s leaving 97kg, for now, in part because Snyder gets a bye into worlds if he wins a medal in Tokyo.
But Cox plans to return to 97kg in 2022, beat Snyder for the spot and keep it for as long as he’s wrestling.
“I’m going to take what’s rightfully mine,” Cox said. “I’m giving you a warning. I’m allowing you to prepare for what’s going to come. Because when it comes, it’s not going to stop.”
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