Throughout quarantine and social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic, J’den Cox has stayed as busy as ever.
The four-time state wrestling champion at Hickman and three-time national champion at Missouri has had plenty of eyes and attention on him from an early age with his success on the mats.
Those accomplishments haven’t stopped rolling in since his move from his hometown of Columbia to Colorado Springs, Colorado, a few years ago to be close to the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The 25-year-old Cox won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics at 86 kilograms in freestyle wrestling and is the two-time defending world champion at 92 kilograms.
Cox announced in February his intentions to bulk up to 97 kilograms for the 2020 Olympic trials, as the weight classes for world championships don’t necessarily apply for other competitions.
His chance to compete against the likes of Kyle Snyder, the defending Olympic gold medalist at 97 kilograms, has yet to come because of COVID-19.
Yet with his workout schedule and numerous requests to participate in Zoom calls, interviews and similar activities, Cox hasn’t had much time to just sit around.
“The first step to doing anything right or good is to wake up, and that's what I do,” Cox said. “I wake up, I get dressed, I don't wear sweats. I put on my jeans, I throw on my clothes and I'm going through my day. And I like to live my life within the limitations that I have and to do what I can do to the best that I can do it.
“... I'm doing that to try to stay connected. And when people ask to talk to their teams, or just to talk in general and stuff, I think it's important to try and stay involved in the community, the wrestling community and to the world in general.”
Keeping those around him in good spirits was a priority to Cox long before the ongoing pandemic and surely will continue to be one once he can get back on the mats.
Cox was recently named male athlete of the decade by the Missouri athletic department, alongside Karissa Schweizer as the female honoree.
“I want to be remembered for me,” Cox said of the honor. “What I did, that's great. And that's wonderful as a wrestler. But there was definitely more to me. I just wanted to be somebody who helped people, touched people's lives.
“Obviously, I’ve been open about my struggles at Mizzou and in my life in general, but I think that in the same way, I know that I felt either sometimes invisible or hurt or I can definitely say, sometimes I felt worthless. I didn't want others to feel that way. So whenever I would talk to somebody or do something, I wanted people to know that their time and they themselves were valuable.”
Cox credits part of those beliefs to his Christian faith. As part of his quarantine routine, alongside working out and press responsibilities, he makes time for Bible study and always keeps close to his heart the virtue of helping your neighbor.
It’s part of his reflection as a wrestler to get both his body and mind in the right place to compete.
“Time is one of the most precious things in the world because you never get it back,” Cox said. “And so, when someone gives you time, you have to realize how remarkable that is and how much just giving someone any time of day sometimes is the most important and amazing thing you can do for somebody.
“I just wanted to make people feel important.”
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has given Cox brief moments of relaxation. He even is trying this week to limit Zoom calls and interviews for a chance to reboot. Next week, he’ll continue those chats with teams around the country.
As Colorado’s stay-at-home order is still intact, the gyms at the USATF are still closed. Cox has a barbell in his garage with free weights to help with lifting. He also has a park across the street from his home where he does his running workouts.
It’s far from what Cox pictured he would be up to two months ago, especially since there’s no true way to replicate wrestling training without human contact.
Cox believes life goes by too fast sometimes, so this period to cool down before intense workouts could be a benefit instead of a struggle.
“I had to tone things down because we're all on the verge of being ready to compete and we’re tapering off and being ready to go into another competition to make an Olympic team,” Cox said. “... Training wise, it's been different. But at the same time, we're still working. I'm still working out. So I'm going to push my body and be as prepared as I can be for when the time arises to compete again.”