OKLAHOMA CITY - For just the 14th time in the NCAA Championships 84-year history, a true freshman has been crowned national champion. Mizzou’s two-seed J’den Cox stormed to the top of a 197-pound weight class that featured three seniors in the final four, engraving his name in Mizzou lore with a 2-1 decision over No. 1 Nick Heflin Saturdaynight. Cox becomes Mizzou’s youngest national champion, joining Tiger greats Ben Askren, Max Askren and Mark Ellis. Cox’s title is the fifth in program history.
“It feels amazing. I’ve worked so hard,” said Missouri’s fifth national champion. “I was telling all these guys, losing here means I’ve got to push the restart button again. I didn’t feel like doing that at all in this tournament, and came through all the training. Everything I’ve gone through this summer, morning practices, two-a-days, everything, it’s come down to this, winning the gold.”
Cox broke the scoreless tie in thesecond period of the 197-final, escaping in four seconds after starting theperiod in the down position. Heflin escaped to tie in the third, but Cox continued to shoot and Heflin was hit for his second stall call, giving Cox the 2-1 lead and eventually the title.
“I didn’t just imagine it. I dreamed it. This is a dream of mine. It’s something I put all of my heart and work to and I always tell people there’s no point — I see it this way: There’s no point to do something if you’re not going to push yourself to try to do it to the best of your ability.”
“I’m so happy for him,” said Head Coach Brian Smith. “He’s an amazing athlete and such a student of the sport. He’s was so confident and focused coming in after high school and then he lost (to Wellington). He is always focused but after that it was this incrediblyintense focus, and he just kept getting better and better and better. He’s an amazing kid.”
In five matches in Oklahoma City, Cox never gave up a takedown. A 10-4 decision over Mario Gonzalez (Illinois) and a 19-6 major over No. 15 Braden Atwood (Purdue) on Thursday sent Cox to Friday’s quarterfinal round, where he would become the youngest Tiger to claim All-American honors with a 5-1 decision over Duke’s Conner Hartmann. The first-year Tiger scored three points in the second period of the semifinal bout versus No. 14 Chris Penny (VT) and added a point for ride time to set up Saturday’s title match.
The Mizzou champion’s .950 winning percentage (38-2) in 2013-14 is the best mark posted by a freshman in Mizzou Wrestling history, surpassing Ben Askren’s 32-5 freshman campaign. It also sits as the third-best winning percentage in program history, with Askren boasting two perfect seasons (2006, 2007).
Cox opened up 2013-14 with 10 straight victories and two open tournament titles at 197 pounds at the Daktronics Open and Joe Parisi Open. Cox’s first loss since his freshman year of high school came in his first career home dual at Mizzou to Ohio’s No. 15 Phil Wellington, a 6-4 decision on December 6. Cox would become champion in four of five tournaments throughout his true freshman campaign, with his lone setback coming at the Southern Scuffle where he finished third. Cox fell to No. 2 Kyven Gadson (Iowa State) in sudden victory of the semifinals for his second loss of theseason. Despite his third place finish, he picked up two signature wins over No. 3 Morgan McIntosh (Penn State) on day two of the Scuffle including an 8-2 trumping of the Nittany Lion in the third place match, catapulting him up the 197-pound rankings.
The Columbia, Mo.-native finished 11-1 in dual play, starting each of Mizzou’s 12 duals. Down in Norman, Okla., Cox jumped to the No. 2-spot in the country after a 6-1 disposal of No. 3 Travis Rutt (Oklahoma). At the MAC Championships, Cox cruised to the finals with a21-6 tech fall over Jackson Lewis (Central Michigan) and an 11-1 major decision over NIU’s Shawn Scott to set up a rematch with Ohio’s Wellington. Cox would avenge his first collegiate loss by way of a 10-1 major. His championship performance earned him the MAC Championship’s ‘Most Outstanding Wrestler.’
Mizzou junior-captain Drake Houdashelt won a 3-0 decision over Mitchell Minotti (Lehigh) to take fifth place at 149 pounds at the 2014 National Championships Saturday morning. Houdashelt’s podium finish gives him All-American status for the second time in as many years. He took sixth in last year’s NCAAs in Des Moines, Iowa.
With Brian Smith at the helm, 20 All-Americans have now come through Columbia, Mo., claiming 33 total medals. Cox’s and Houdashelt’s 2014 finishes make it 55 Mizzou All-Americans at the NCAA Championships since the programs beginning in 1923. Smith’s squads have had 13 consecutive winning seasons after posting a 10-2 dual record in 2013-14. The program also picked up their third-consecutive conference title in comeback fashion earlier this month, edging out top-10 program UNI with 118.5 team points.
The Tigers finished the 2014 NCAAs in 14th place with 40.5 points. The Penn State Nittany Lions won their fourth-consecutive team title with 109.5 team points.
133 - Matt Manley
Champ. Round 1: Matt Manley decision over Mack McGuire (KentState) in sudden victory 2, 7-5.
Champ. Round 2: No. 1 Joe Colon (UNI) decision over Matt Manley, 5-1.
Cons. Round 2: Mark Grey (Cornell) decision over Matt Manley, 3-0.
141 - Lavion Mayes
Champ. Round 1: No. 2 Logan Stieber (Ohio State) fall over Lavion Mayes at 2:48.
Cons. Round 1: Lavion Mayes major decision over Avery Garner(Utah Valley), 15-5.
Cons. Round 2: Lavion Mayes decision over Laike Gardner (Lehigh), 9-5.
Cons. Round 3: Luke Vaith (Hofstra) decision over Lavion Mayes, 6-2.
149 – No. 1 Drake Houdashelt - ALL-AMERICAN (FIFTH)
Champ. Round 1: No. 1 Drake Houdashelt major decision over Alex Kocer (SDSU), 12-3.
Champ. Round 2: No. 1 Drake Houdashelt major decision over No. 16 Alex Richardson (ODU), 13-0.
Quarterfinals: No. 1 Drake Houdashelt decision over No. 9 Eric Grajales (Michigan), 3-1.
Semifinals: No. 5 Jason Tsirtsis (NW) decision over No. 1 Drake Houdashelt in tie-breaker 1, 2-1.
Cons. Semifinal: No. 8 David Habat (Edin) decision over No. 1 Drake Houdashelt, 5-4.
Fifth Place Match: No. 1 Drake Houdashelt decision over No. 15 Mitchell Minotti, 3-0.
157 – No. 14 Joey Lavallee
Champ. Round 1: No. 14 Joey Lavallee decision over Immanuel Kerr-Brown (Duke), 10-3.
Champ. Round 2: No. 3 Alex Dieringer (OSU) fall over No. 14 Joey Lavallee at 1:38.
Cons. Round 2: No. 14 Joey Lavallee technical fall over Johnny Greisheimer (Edinboro), 22-7.
Cons. Round 3: No. 14 Joey Lavallee major decision over PaulHancock (Army), 14-4.
Cons. Round 4: No. 1 James Green (Neb) major decision over No. 14 Joey Lavallee, 12-2.
165 - Zach Toal
Champ. Round 1: No. 7 Pierce Harger (Northwestern) fall overZach Toal at 3:31.
Cons. Round 1: Austin Wilson (Nebraska) decision over Zach Toal, 6-1.
174 - Mikey England
Champ. Round 1: No. 2 Andrew Howe (Oklahoma) technical fall over Mikey England, 19-4 in 5:58.
Cons. Round 1: Shane Hughes (Columbia) fall over Mikey England at 3:00.
197 – No. 2 J’den Cox - ALL-AMERICAN (CHAMPION)
Champ. Round 1: No. 2 J’den Cox decision over Mario Gonzalez (Illinois), 10-4.
Champ. Round 2: No. 2 J’den Cox major decision over No. 15 Braden Atwood (Purdue), 19-6.
Quarterfinals: No. 2 J’den Cox decision over Conner Hartmann (Duke), 5-1.
Semifinals: No. 2 J’den Cox decision over No. 14 Chris Penny (VT), 4-1.
Finals: No. 2 J’den Cox decision over No. 1 Nick Heflin (Ohio State), 2-1.
HWT - Devin Mellon
Champ. Round 1: No. 9 Connor Medberry (Wisconsin) major decision over Devin Mellon, 11-2.
Cons. Round 1: Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) decision over Devin Mellon in sudden victory 1, 6-4.
Press release prepared by MuTigers Wrestling