Young wrestlers inspired by J'den Cox

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COLUMBIA - You may know him as an NCAA champion and Olympic bronze medalist, but for so many young wrestlers in Columbia, J'den Cox is much more than that. He's everything a role model should be, and more.

When you ask the young members of the Columbia Wrestling Club who their favorite wrestler is, there is only one answer; J'den Cox.

Cox has been an idol to the young wrestlers in Columbia both in his performance on the mat, and his words when he visits practice.

"He didn't only talk about wrestling," third grader Beau Waldron said. "Sometimes he would talk about sportsmanship and to dream big and follow your goals."

Fourth grader Donivan Taylor said, "He's a really good wrestler. And, what's the word? He's a good role model."

Coach and former CWC wrestler Brock Davis said "Everything J'den says is gold to these kids. They see what he's done and they think they can do it too, and it's not false. They can do it too."

Cox has even inspired some of the young wrestlers to have even bigger goals.

"I would like to be better," Wyatt Belcher-Key said. "Not him. Better." 

For his former coach and current CWC head coach Mike Flanagan, J'den's impact and importance to the community and the young wrestlers of Columbia is obvious.

"A lot of these kids not only here in Columbia, but around the state aspire to be the next J'den Cox," Flanagan said. "That's a role he takes very seriously, being an ambassador for the sport and for the University, and just a great role model for these kids." 

While all of the kids in the CWC look up to one of the greatest athletes in the history of the town, Flanagan says, Cox's future role could be even bigger.

"It just seems like his purpose is bigger than that of a student-athlete," Flanagan said. "He's a very special kid. I would say he's one that comes along once in a generation. I don't think anybody really knows what that bigger purpose is yet, and what his bigger calling is yet. But we're going to find out, so we're all going to have to stay tuned."