J’den Cox

J’den Cox, Kyle Dake earn first wrestling world titles

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J’den Cox had enough of bronze. Kyle Dake, an NCAA wrestling legend, considered quitting after finishing second at U.S. trials year after year.

Both Cox and Dake broke through for their first wrestling world titles in Budapest on Monday, giving the U.S. three male world champions in one year for the first time since 1995.

Cox, bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics and 2017 Worlds, dumped Belarusian Ivan Yankouski 4-1 in the 92kg final. A half-hour earlier, Dake completed an unscored upon run through the 79kg division, beating Olympic bronze medalist Jabrayil Hasanov of Azerbaijan 2-0.

Both Cox and Dake won their titles at non-Olympic weights. It’s likely that Cox drops back down to 86kg, where David Taylor just won the world title, for the Tokyo 2020 trials. Dake’s road might be even tougher if he goes down to 74kg, land of five-time Olympic and world champion Jordan Burroughs.

Since Rio, Cox underwent surgery for the torn meniscus that he competed on at the Olympics, won his third NCAA title, mulled and ruled out playing college football for Missouri, moved up from 86kg to 92kg, relocated to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and shaved his head.

“I expected this outcome,” Cox said. “I did the work.”

Dake, 27, reached the pinnacle of international wrestling five years after completing an unrivaled NCAA career at Cornell. Dake, nicknamed “Kid Dynamite,” is the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt.

From 2013-17, Dake was runner-up at Olympic or world championships trials four times. Three times, he ran into Burroughs in world trials finals. He considered retiring after losing in the 2016 Olympic Trials 86kg final to Cox.

Dake made his first world team this year, helped some by the tournament moving from eight weight classes to 10. He didn’t have to face Burroughs or Cox at trials.

“Motivating, having guys like that who are just half a step, quarter of a step, eighth of a step ahead of you, that you need to go catch puts a fire under your belly,” Dake said. “I challenge [Olympic and world 97kg champion] Kyle Snyder [in practice]. I challenge J’den. I challenge those guys. I go down [in weight]. I’ll wrestle Jordan.”

And Dake proved he belonged in Budapest as the first U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in at least 30 years. Helen Maroulis, who wrestles later this week, also notched the feat at the 2015 and 2017 Worlds.

Worlds continue Tuesday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with the most anticipated match of the tournament — Snyder versus Russian Olympic champ Abdulrashid Sadulaev in the 97kg final, a rematch of the 2017 final dubbed the “Match of the Century” won by Snyder.

Also Monday, 2017 World silver medalist Thomas Gilman dropped his 57kg bronze-medal match 5-4 to Süleyman Atlı of Turkey.

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J’den Cox wins bronze at World Wrestling Championships

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J’den Cox, bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, added another bronze to his resume when he finished third in the 86-kilogram freestyle weight class at the United World Wrestling Senior World Championships on Friday.

Cox defeated Mihail Ganev of Bulgaria, the 2010 world champion in the 84-kilogram class, in dominant fashion, winning the match with a final score of 8-0.

Cox won his first four matches before a surprise loss to Slovakia’s Boris Makeoev in the semifinals took him out of the running for the world title.

After that loss, fellow American wrestler David Taylor tweeted criticism of how Cox wrestled against Makeoev.

After Cox won gold, he told FloWrestling he’d like to give a “big special thank you to David Taylor. Thank you for the motivation, because without your critique I don’t know if I would have been up to it.”

Cox is a three-time NCAA champion who graduated from Missouri University in May. He’ll return to MU as a volunteer assistant coach after worlds.

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MORE: Helen Maroulis dominates for world title after making history in Rio

Jordan Burroughs suffers first U.S. loss since 2009 at world trials

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Jordan Burroughs lost on U.S. soil for the first time since 2009 but rallied to make the world championships team on Saturday night.

Burroughs, a 2012 Olympic champion and three-time world champion, beat Kyle Dake 2-1 in the best-of-three 74kg freestyle finals at the world team trials in his hometown of Lincoln, Neb.

“After leaving Rio de Janeiro with no medal, I promised myself I’d never let a man feel like that again,” said Burroughs, who had not competed in Lincoln since 2011. “My wife thinks I’m a whole lot sexier when I’m winning, so it’s going to be a good night for me.”

Burroughs lost the opener to Dake on a 2-2 tiebreaker but rallied to win the second and third matches 8-4 and 6-2. He joins Rio gold medalists Helen Maroulis and Kyle Snyder headlining the U.S. team for worlds in Paris in August.

“I don’t even want to be the leader anymore,” Burroughs said. “I think this is Kyle Snyder’s time.”

Burroughs, 29, moved to 142-5 in his senior international freestyle career dating to 2011. The opening loss to Dake marked his second pro defeat to an American (Nick Marable, 2014) and first on U.S. soil since 2009, when he wrestled folkstyle at the University of Nebraska.

Dake is one of only four men to win four NCAA wrestling titles, doing so from 2010-13. He’s the only one to do so in four different weight classes or without a redshirt year. But Dake, 26, has struggled against the older Burroughs, getting swept at the world team trials in 2013 and 2015.

Last year, Dake moved up one weight class in part to avoid Burroughs at the Olympic Trials, where only one wrestler per weight class advanced to the Games.

But Dake lost in the 86kg finals at Olympic Trials to Missouri’s J’den Cox, who went on to take bronze in Rio before his senior NCAA season.

Dake returned to 74kg this year and pushed Burroughs to a 2-2 affair at the U.S. Open in April, but lost on a tiebreaker.

Dake had to win two matches earlier Saturday just to face Burroughs, who earned a bye into the finals via that U.S. Open victory.

“I had to sleep in the same house with two toddlers all week, so I say we’re even,” Burroughs joked of his two kids. “I’m getting older, a little bit slower. It’s a little bit harder to get up in the morning and go to practice.”

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