2023 US Open Wrestling Championships

J'den Cox Has Sights Set On Historic Kyle Snyder Matchup At 97 kg

J'den Cox Has Sights Set On Historic Kyle Snyder Matchup At 97 kg

A clash of World champions is looming now that J'den Cox is moving up to 97 kilograms to take on Kyle Snyder.

Mar 31, 2023 by Kyle Klingman

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J’den Cox is making the move up and he’s not looking back. 

Cox has been a verifiable superstar at 92 kilograms when United World Wrestling added the weight during the 2018 World Championships. He won titles in 2018 and 2019 before adding bronze in 2021 and silver in 2022. That’s on top of 86-kilogram bronze medals at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. 

His medal haul ranks among the finest in U.S. history: two gold, one silver, and three bronze. 

Now, he has something bigger in mind: Kyle Snyder and the 97-kilogram weight class. 

“We talk about pushing ourselves to be the best and in order to that, in my opinion, as far as wrestling and the world, 97 (kilograms) has some of the best guys in the sport,” Cox said. “If that’s the point of our sport, if that’s what we push ourselves to do, then I should push myself to be (the best in the world).”

Moving up to 97 kg means that Cox will forgo an automatic Final X berth at 92 kg since he is a returning World medalist. The former Missouri star will enter the US Open for his chance to face Snyder — the reigning World champion and the sole owner of the weight since 2015.

Snyder’s World/Olympic medal haul includes four gold, three silver, and one bronze. 

Moving up to 97 makes sense if you understand international wrestling. There are 10 World weights but only six at the Olympics. Snyder competes at an Olympic weight; Cox does not. 

Cox wants to win an Olympic gold medal and making the 2023 World team gives him the best chance to make that happen. Earning a medal at this year’s World Championships ensures a spot in the finals of the 2024 Olympic Trials — so there is a lot is on the line for both wrestlers. 

The Cox-Snyder match-up was expected to happen at the 2021 Olympic Trials but Cox was late for the weigh-in and was not allowed to compete. The two eventually faced off on a RUDIS Super Card during the 2022 NCAA Championships with Snyder winning the best-of-three series in straight matches: 5-5 and 7-2. 

“I felt like it was the right move to (go up) in 2020 and it didn’t change going up to now,” Cox said. “With how things transpired, I just can’t live in the past like that. It’s just moving forward. It doesn’t linger too much. I can’t let things like that hold me back. If anything, it’s just more motivation for the next cycle.

“(The Supermatch with Snyder showed me) tactically the things I need to work on as far as controlling the center a little bit better. We can’t let people push us out. It was more tactically than anything technically. Overall, I was excited about getting to perform and getting to wrestle and getting a feel from one of the guys who is one of the best in the world. I look forward to having another crack at him. I have to earn that so that’s what I’m looking to do.”

The 97 kg weight class equates to around 213.5 pounds. Cox walks around at 227 pounds but he got up to 250 pounds at one point during the off-season. 

“I felt horrible,” Cox said. “I hated it. I felt it was necessary because the guys were a little bit bigger. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t an undersized 97. My strength is built up, my size has gotten bigger, and I’m excited. Let’s get rolling.

“I know there will be some good names there and some great tests. People are going to make me earn a berth at Final X, so let’s do it. I don’t try to predict the future but, obviously, I have a goal in mind and I’m going to aim for it.”

J’den Cox’s Match History At 97 kg

2014 World Team Trials - Madison, Wisconsin — DNP

WIN - 8-0 over Jack Jensen

WIN - 5-0 to Wynn Michalak 

LOSS - 10-2 to Deron Winn

LOSS - 4-2 to JD Bergman

2015 US Open - Las Vegas, Nevada — 4th place

WIN - 11-4 over Josh Manu

WIN - 9-5 over Dave Zabriskie 

WIN - 4-0 over Cale Byers

LOSS - 4-3 to Kyle Snyder 

WIN - 4-1 over Wynn Michalak 

Injury defaulted to JD Bergman

2020 Cerro Pelado - Havana, Cuba — 1st place

WIN - 5-3 over Reineris Salas Perez (CUB)

WIN - 4-0 over Jacob Kasper (USA)

WIN - 11-1 over Yonger Bastida (CUB)

FloWrestling: Adeline Gray vs Tamyra Mensah-Stock

WIN - 6-2 over Hayden Zillmer 

FloWrestling: Jordan Burroughs vs David Taylor (215 pounds)

WIN - 6-1 over Nate Jackson 

2021 America’s Cup 

WIN - 11-0 over Scottie Boykin 

WIN - 12-0 over Ben Honis

WIN - 5-0 over Hayden Zillmer

WIN - 10-0 over Ben Honis

2022 Rudis Supermatch

LOSS - 5-5 to Kyle Snyder

LOSS - 7-2 to Kyle Snyder 

2023 Henri Deglane

WIN - 11-0 over Ricardo Baez (ARG)

Injury defaulted to Ilja Matuhin (GER)

Injury defaulted to Lukas Krasauskas (LTU)

J’den Cox’s World medal haul

2016 Olympics — Bronze (86 kg)

2017 Worlds — Bronze (86 kg)

2018 Worlds — Gold (92 kg)

2019 Worlds — Gold (92 kg)

2021 Worlds — Bronze (92 kg)

2022 Worlds — Silver (92 kg)