With three NCAA titles and a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, J’den Cox is arguably the greatest athlete in the University of Missouri’s history. His path from precocious teeth-pulling Columbia kid to MU icon might have seemed like a short — both literally and figuratively — and predestined one. But, in this three-part series continuing Wednesday and concluding next Sunday, the Missourian looks at the arduous odyssey fraught with deep-seated and what at times seemed like insurmountable obstacles.
Deep in the bowels of the Scottrade Center, a young girl wanders among coaches, reporters and throngs of wrestlers.
She could not be more out of place, wearing a bright yellow T-shirt and sporting a fresh cast on her left arm, a result of a falling pole during the setup for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Her eyes are trained on one wrestler sauntering toward the media backdrop, coming off a victory in the national semifinals.
The wrestler's name is J'den Cox. In the eyes of the girl, he is a superstar, the biggest name on the biggest of wrestling stages. In the eyes of the media members swarming him, he is a feel-good story, a Missouri-born kid in his home state searching for his third and final national championship. In the eyes of his coaches, he is a once-in-a-lifetime talent that may never be replicated by another Missouri wrestler or athlete, ever.
The girl strides toward Cox, earnestly introducing herself to the goliath and telling the unfortunate story of how her arm ended up sandwiched between a metal beam and the Scottrade Center floor.
Cox laughs and says, "You know, you're supposed to move out of the way when that happens."