J'Den's Journey: Rio
COLUMBIA - If J'Den Cox is on the wrestling mat in a match, you can count on at least one of his parents watching in the stands.
"Whenever he has one, if I have the ability, I'm there," J'Den's father Michael Cox said.
Michael and J'Den's mother, Cathy Cox, have been attending J'Den's meets since he was five-years-old. The early wake-up calls for weigh-ins and rides to matches wasn't special treatment from the parents.
"For years, I did it with my older kids and J'Den was no different," Michael Cox said.
J'Den said he appreciates his parents continuing to have a steady presence at his meets.
"I'm blessed to have good parents. I'm very grateful for them, because they didn't have to do those things. They didn't have to take time out of their day," he said.
Michael Cox believes he and his wife's presence gives J'Den a little extra motivation to compete hard.
"When he sees us there physically, I think that makes him feel good to know that 'hey, my dad or my mom or the whole family took the time out just to come watch me,'" Michael Cox said.
The parents wanted to bring that emotional support to Rio when they found out J'Den qualified to wrestle in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
"We just want J'Den to know how much we support him and how much we love him, how much we're there for him," Cathy Cox said.
She, her husband and other family members will be going to the Olympics in part because of donations from the Columbia community.
"For them to be in the stands means a lot to me as a person and I'll cherish it," J'Den said.
When the parents are in Rio watching J'Den wrestle, they won't be looking for too much acknowledgement from their son while he's on the mat. Both Cathy Cox and J'Den said they want wrestling to be the focus.
"I'm more than happy in that my family gets to come and see me on the biggest stage and the biggest match of my career. I mean that's a blessing, but that won't be where my mind is at during the thing," J'Den said.
He said he looks forward to meeting up with his family once he gets off the mat.
"Just wait till the end of duals, give them hugs and show them love and tell them I'm grateful for them to be there," J'Den said.
His parents will be focused on their own role: being his number one fans.
"I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to hold my heart in my chest the whole time he wrestles," Cathy Cox said.
J'Den will wrestle in the 86-kg weight class on Saturday. Coverage of the meet starts at 8 a.m. on the USA Network.