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Missouri true freshman J’Den Cox wins 197 lb. title at 2014 NCAAs

Contrasting emotions: Ohio State's Nick Heflin (left) is stunned to realize that his last-second takedown was too late... while Missouri's J'Den Cox celebrates his 197 title at the 2014 NCAAs
Contrasting emotions: Ohio State's Nick Heflin (left) is stunned to realize that his last-second takedown was too late... while Missouri's J'Den Cox celebrates his 197 title at the 2014 NCAAs
Tony Rotundo,

What do you get a guy who just celebrated his nineteenth birthday?

True freshman J’Den Cox of the University of Missouri – who turned 19 earlier this month – won the ultimate prize in college wrestling: the 197-pound title at the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City Saturday night.

The No. 2 seed Cox defeated top-seeded Nick Heflin of Ohio State, 2-1, in the championship match whose outcome was unclear until the results of a video review of a last-second takedown by Heflin that officials ruled came after time expired.

Heflin had moved up two weight classes this year to compete at 197.

Cox is Missouri’s first NCAA champ since Mark Ellis (now assistant coach at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga) won the heavyweight title at the 2009 NCAAs. In addition, Cox is one of two freshmen to win titles at this year’s NCAAs; the other is Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern, 149-pound champ.

Ohio State had two wrestlers in the finals. While Heflin did not win the title, teammate Logan Stieber became the school’s first three-time NCAA champ by winning the 141-pound championship.

How Cox (38-2 season record) got to the finals: Rd. 1: dec. unseeded Mario Gonzalez (Illinois), 10-4; Rd. 2: maj. dec. No. 15 Braden Atwood (Purdue), 19-6; Qtrfinals: dec. unseeded Connor Hartmann (Duke), 5-1; Semifinals: dec. No. 14 Chris Penny (Virginia Tech), 4-1.

How Heflin (28-2 season record) got to the finals: Rd. 1: injury default by unseeded Paul Rands (Navy), 5:36; Rd. 2: medical forfeit by unseeded Dan Scherer (Stanford); Qtrfinals: dec. unseeded Cody Reed (Binghamton), 8-1; Semifinals: dec. No. 4 Scott Schiller (Minnesota), 2-1, TB1.

Finals action:

  • 1st Period: No scoring.
  • 2nd Period: Cox chooses down, escapes. No other scoring. 1-0 Cox.
  • 3rd Period: Heflin chooses down, escapes. Score tied 1-1. Heflin is charged one point for stalling. The Buckeye attempts a last-second takedown which is subjected to video review. Takedown is ruled to have occurred after clock ran out. Final score, 2-1 Cox.

Quotes from the champ:

  • How it feels to win the title: “It feels amazing. It feels great. I’ve worked so hard. I was telling all the guys that losing here means I’ve gotta push the restart button again. I didn’t feel like doing that at all in this year’s tournament, and it came through in all the training. Everything I’ve gone through this summer, morning practices, two-a-days, everything, it’s come down to this, winning the gold.
  • A year ago, as a high school student, did you image being a champ as a true freshman? “I didn’t just imagine it. I dreamt it. This is a dream of mine. It’s something I put all my heart and work toward and I always tell people there’s no point to do something if you’re not going to push yourself to try to do it to the best of your ability.”
  • Final seconds of the match (Heflin’s last-second takedown attempt): “I got caught in the opposition. I didn’t move. Honestly, I thought I was all right, because I was trying to swing out-of-bounds, but it didn’t happen. I’m going to put this on – thank God the clock was close to being out because it was going to be a close one. But it was a scary thought. But in the end it came out all right.”

2014 NCAA All-Americans – 197 pounds

  1. J’Den Cox (Missouri)
  2. Nick Heflin (Ohio State)
  3. Scott Schiller (Minnesota)
  4. Kyven Gadson (Iowa State)
  5. Conner Hartmann (Duke)
  6. Chris Penny (Virginia Tech)
  7. Morgan McIntosh (Penn State)
  8. Nathan Burak (Iowa)

Take a look back: For all College Wrestling Examiner articles on the 2014 NCAAs, click here... and check out Mat Bracketology, College Wrestling Examiner's weight-by-weight analysis of seeded wrestlers, by clicking on the Mat Bracketology link.

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