Seven minutes—seven minutes was all that J’den Cox, already a two-time NCAA national champion, needed to cement his legacy as one of if not the best wrestler in the history of the University of Missouri.
The senior student and Olympic bronze medalist in freestyle wrestling was part of the very first match of the championship round of competition, an obvious home-state favorite ending his college career at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis by facing Brett Pfarr of Minnesota.
1st Period (3:00)
Cox hand-fights before capturing a front headlock. Sixty seconds disappears from the clock though and both men are still upright, although Pfarr came close to being takedown but only dropped to one knee. They both go back to the headlock before the referee calls a stalemate and separate them with 1:16 to go in the first period.
Pfarr gets his left ankle picked, Cox went elbow deep and eventually take’s the Golden Gopher’s back for a takedown (2 points.) From there, Cox also starts accumulating ride time (controlling an opponent to the point of preventing an escape or reversal for 1 point per minute.) The grapplers reset in the sent of the matter following the takedown and Cox stays glued to his opponent’s back until the second period.
2nd Period (2:00)
There is a blood timeout before the middle frame. Now Pfarr is on Cox’s back, starting the period from the dominant position. A few seconds of Cox’s ride time evaporates, but escapes trouble and makes it to his feet (1 point, Cox 3-0.) Cox shoots in and appears to grab Pfarr’s right leg around the knee/thigh, planting him down (2 points, Cox 5-0.)
Cox is back in control and working from the back, trying to roll Pfarr it seems for a fall, adding to his ride time when they reset. They go out of bounds with 45 seconds to go in the period. Pfarr’s soon back on defense but fights off the grip of the Tiger from behind to escape (1 point, Cox 5-1.) There’s a back and forth battle for wrist control as this goes to the final period.
3rd Period (2:00)
Cox now has over a minute of ride time to add to his score and adds on, covering Pfarr to start the third. Pfarr struggles to stand, going from vertical to bent at the waist and with his adversary still overpowering him. He goes out of bounds to force a separation.
It’s back to the center with the favorite on top. Cox’s hands get a little high and Pfarr is able to grip them and escape the hold (1 point, Cox 5-2.) There’s a minute left and they are deadlocked in a collar and elbow tie-up that goes nowhere. With just under two minutes of ride time to this point and under one left to wrestle, at least one more point will go to Cox.
With seconds left the defending champion this time gets a left-side single-leg and even though Pfarr tumbles, it’s ruled out of bounds. Cox pivots from the tie-up position to Pfarr’s back with only eight seconds remaining for another takedown (2 points, Cox 7-2) and a final ride time of 1:54 (1 point, Cox wins 8-2.)
In victory, Cox became the first three-time national champion as both a wrestler and overall athlete in his school’s history. He finished his season undefeated at 28-0, just the second time that has ever occurred for Missouri. Coach Brian Smith was voted the 2017 Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
“I’m honored to have accomplished another great feat, not only for myself but for my school, for my teammates and for my family,” Cox said to MUTigers.com. “I have a lot of respect for the history of the school, the respect of the people that came before me and that paved the way for me to be able to do what I do day in, day out. And I’ve accomplished great feats. And I hope to become a stepping stone for someone else to come through and break that.”
Related: 2016 Rio Olympics
Penn State’s Zain Retherford, the defending champion at 149 pounds would stifle Missouri’s Lavion Mayes en route to his fourth technical fall (15+ point advantage) of the NCAA Championships to win the match 18-2. Penn’s Jason Nolf would do the same to Joey Lavallee at 157 pounds, winning 14-6. The Nittany Lions would then take the overall team championship (their sixth in seven years) with 146.5 points.