To say J’Den Cox is multi-talented is a bit of an understatement. At Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri, he was an All-State linebacker and four-time state champion wrestler. As a first-year collegian at Missouri, Cox was a national champion at 197 pounds in 2014. He followed it up with another All-American showing at the 2015 NCAA Championships.
All the while, he’s whistled while he’s worked. An accomplished singer, Cox might just have a future as a recording artist.
So, when Missouri needed some theatrics on Sunday on the stage of MU’s Jesse Auditorium, the school’s performing arts center, Cox answered the call.
No. 14 Cornell led the fourth-ranked Tigers, 17-13, with one bout remaining. Cox, usually a 197-pounder, moved up to heavyweight and beat Cornell’s Jeramy Sweaney, 24-9, a technical fall and worth five points to give the hosts a dramatic 18-17 victory.
“The most exciting match I’ve ever been in, hands down,” said Cox, who has a 91-5 career record.
Sunday was not the first time Missouri coach Brian Smith had his wrestlers involved in something outside the norm. “Beauty and the Beast,” a combined wrestling and gymnastics dual meet is a regular part of the Tiger schedule. Just over 1,200 packed into Jesse Auditorium.
“It’s an awesome place to wrestle a match when it gets rocking like that,” Smith said. “We are definitely giving them exciting matches.”
The Tigers (7-0), still No. 4 in the latest USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll, have won 35-straight dual meets dating back to January 2014. They visit Oklahoma State on Jan. 22.
Cyclones bounce back
Iowa State has not exactly been itself over the last half dozen years. Not since 2010 has ISU finished inside the top 10 at the NCAA Championships, taking 15th last March. The 2015-16 campaign did not start out very promising with a 32-3 loss to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Over the weekend, ISU returned to Virginia, this time Hampton, for the Virginia Duals where the Cyclones beat George Mason, Kent State, and Chattanooga to set up a rematch with the fifth-ranked Hokies in Saturday’s championship dual.
Logan Breitenbach (157), Tanner Weatherman (165), and Lelund Weatherspoon (174) had big wins and Marcus Harrington’s 8-6 victory at 197 all but secured the dual. Tech was down a pair of starters.
“To come through with a victory in a dual at the Virginia Duals in a competition that [Virginia Tech] won the last seven years in a row was very rewarding for our guys,” ISU coach Kevin Jackson told The Gazette. “So it should give quite a few of our guys a lot of confidence as we move forward.”
Forward is three road duals, the first at an improving Arizona State this Friday. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State host ISU Jan. 22 and 24, respectively.
Rutgers tied for 31st with Princeton and Ohio at the 2015 NCAA Championships. With only two All-Americans since 2002, the Scarlett Knights have not exactly lived up to the potential of a state that annually produces plenty of Division I talent. Tuesday’s USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll shows Rutgers (11-2) at No. 6, an all-time high for the program. Anthony Ashnault (18-1, 141) and Anthony Perotti (13-2, 165) lead a team that was third at the Midlands Championships in December and coming off a 34-0 blanking of Michigan State.
“I think we can wrestle with anybody in the conference,” ninth-year coach Scott Goodale said. “We feel good about the schedule that’s out in front of us, but we feel good about what we did out of conference, too. We feel like we can win all of them from here on out, but at the same time we have to wrestle really, really good to do that.”
Rutgers wrestles at Minnesota on Sunday.
One in, two out
Preseason No. 1 Oklahoma State suffered dual losses to Iowa and North Carolina State during the opening two months of the season and did not look like a national champion. Head coach John Smith shook up his lineup by inserting freshman Kaid Brock at 133 pounds. His debut was a bit dramatic, pinning 2015 NCAA champion Cody Brewer of Oklahoma in 42 seconds. But Brock, who entered the Southern Scuffle 16-0, was injured in his finals match with Cornell’s top-ranked Nahshon Garrett and will not return. Smith announced Monday that another freshman, Joe Smith, will begin his career this weekend in duals at West Virginia and Pittsburgh. Joe Smith, a three-time Oklahoma state champion and National Junior freestyle champion, has two losses this season wresting unattached ― Illinois’ top-ranked Isaiah Martinez and No. 3 Jason Nolf of Penn State.
“Joe will wrestle this weekend in both dual meets, unless there is any major changes,” John Smith said.“It kind of puts us in a position where we need Joseph, and we need him in the lineup.”
The Cowboys expected highly-touted redshirt-freshman Chance Marsteller to be the 157-pounder in 2015-16. However, the Pennsylvanian was just 6-5 and has been suspended for the rest of the season due to a violation of team rules.
• After earning Outstanding Wrestler honors by winning the loaded 174-pound bracket at the Southern Scuffle two weekends ago, Penn State 174-pounder Bo Nickal suffered his first loss of the season on Sunday, falling to Indiana’s Nate Jackson, 7-6.
• Lehigh and Navy wrestled for the 96th time last Saturday. With a 34-3 win, the eighth-ranked Mountain Hawks now lead the all-time series with the Midshipmen, 49-47.
• The Air Force Academy swept Colorado at the Tracy Borah Duals in Gunnison, Colo., last Saturday. UAF beat Division II Western State (23-10), Colorado Mesa (27-12), and Colorado State-Pueblo (41-6).
• Michigan State fell to 0-8 with a 26-10 loss to Maryland on Sunday. The Spartans are 3-33 in their last 36 Big Ten dual meets.
• No. 2 Iowa (10-0) blanked Northwestern, 54-0, on Sunday. Patrick Rhoades’ 9-3 win at 165 pounds was the only bout that did not produce bonus points.
“The only thing we need to work on was scoring bonus points at 165,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “We could have had bonus points at every weight, that would have made a better statement in my mind.”
The growing rivalry between Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen and NU’s Alex Tsirtsis resulted in a Tsirtsis injury default.
• Ohio State senior Hunter Stieber made his 2015-16 debut on Saturday. The two-time All-American dropped a 5-3 decision to Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo in the Wolverines’ 21-11 victory over the Buckeyes.
• Lock Haven 149-pounder Dan Neff, eighth at the 2015 NCAA Championships, goes for his 100th career victory against Rider this Saturday. It will not be easy. Rider’s B.J. Clagon finished fifth at the 2015 NCAAs and is currently ranked 17th in the country.
• The top four 141-pounders are underclassmen and a combined 56-5. Oklahoma State sophomore Dean Heil (15-0) has beaten North Carolina State sophomore Kevin Jack (13-3) and Stanford’s Joey McKenna (14-1). Ohio State’s Micah Jordan (14-1) suffered his only defeat to Missouri’s fifth-ranked Matt Manley on Dec. 12. McKenna and Jordan are both first-year starters.
Division I Power Rankings, Week 2
1― Penn State: Despite rookie Bo Nickal taking his first loss of the season, the Nittany Lions are still at the top of this list. Nebraska and Northwestern are next on the schedule; the seventh-ranked Huskers might provide a challenge Friday night.
2 ― Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose Kaid Brock but gain Joe Smith and are No. 5 in the latest rankings. OSU should take care of business this weekend, repaying Pittsburgh for a loss two seasons ago. No doubt, Jan. 22 looms large with No. 4 Missouri visiting Stillwater. Question for the Pokes: Who goes at 133, 184, and 197?
3 ― Iowa: Northwestern experienced Iowa’s power over the weekend; Wisconsin will most likely feel similar come Friday. An interesting dual awaits the Hawkeyes, Jan. 24 in Lincoln, Neb. Figuring out 141 is an Iowa priority.
4 ― Lehigh: Pat Santoro’s lineup in a 34-3 win over Navy included four freshmen. Two days later, LU whipped Penn, 27-10. The EIWA power wrestles at Cornell, Jan. 23, and hosts No. 1 Penn State to start February.
5 ― Missouri: One of the best dual teams in the country once again, head coach Brian Smith shuffled his lineup to beat Cornell last Sunday. The Tigers have eight wrestlers ranked among the top 15; they will be put to the test this Sunday in Mt. Pleasant, Mi., when No. 19 Central Michigan welcomes MU.
6 ― North Carolina State: The Wolfpack (16-0) outscored four unranked opponents, 131-31, at the Pitt Duals over the weekend. We’ll see how good NC State is this Sunday when they host No. 17 Virginia. The Wolfpack and Tar Heels play a little “Monday Night Wrestling” on the 25th in Raleigh.
7 ― Michigan: Among the top five to start this season, the Wolverines (6-1) have flown under the radar since losing to Oklahoma. UM showed back up on Sunday by beating Ohio State in Columbus. A lot like Missouri, Michigan has eight ranked inside the top 20. A good Illinois squad visits Ann Arbor on Friday.
T8 ― Ohio State: Despite losing to Michigan over the weekend, the 2015 national champions are still too good to be outside the top eight. The schedule does not get any easier with Nebraska coming to Columbus on Sunday. There will be a lot of red … and close matches.
T8 ― Nebraska: Head coach Mark Manning, again, has a good product in Lincoln. Despite an early December loss to Rutgers, NU is a top 10 squad. How’s this for a three-match stretch? At Penn State this Friday; at Ohio State on Sunday; at home against Iowa on Jan. 24. The Huskers could go 0-3 or win all three if they pull off an upset or two.
Knocking on the door
Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Illinois, North Carolina, Illinois, Iowa State