Top U.S. wrestler J’den Cox out of Olympic Trials before tournament starts

FORT WORTH, Texas – Before the Olympic Trials even started Friday morning, USA Wrestling announced J'den Cox would not be competing because he failed to make weight.

Cox, a two-time world champ and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, was entered at 97 kilograms (213 pounds), and was placed in the semifinals by virtue of winning a 2019 world championship at a non-Olympic weight, 92 kilos (202 pounds). He was removed from the bracket and it has since been updated.

That stinks for wrestling fans. Had Cox won Friday's challenge tournament, he would've faced Kyle Snyder, a two-time world champ and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, in Saturday's best-of-three finals for the right to go to Tokyo.

J'den Cox won bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. (Photo: David E. Klutho, USA TODAY Sports)

Cox's removal from the tournament means that two high-profile wrestlers are not competing this weekend. Nick Suriano, who entered at 57 kilos (125 pounds), was removed from the tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test result earlier this week.

Friday's action consists of two sessions. Session I begins at 10 a.m. CT and will include the challenge tournament preliminary and quarterfinal rounds. Session II begins at 6:30 p.m. and will consist of the challenge tournament semifinals and finals.

Winners of the challenge tournament will advance to Saturday's best-of-three championship finals for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy matches:

Men's Freestyle

65-kg: Nick Lee vs. Mitch McKee

NCAA champ against a guy who can light up the scoreboard — and the winner gets Jordan Oliver.

86-kg, round one: Bo Nickal vs. Carter Starocci

Two Penn State wrestlers going head-to-head first round — and the winner gets Pat Downey.

86-kg, round one: Nate Jackson vs. Aaron Brooks

Jackson, a Princeton coach and fan favorite, against Brooks, an NCAA champ and credentialed age-level competitor. Oh, and the winner gets Zahid Valencia.

57-kg: Vito Arujau vs. Nathan Tomasello

Arujau won a Junior world silver in 2019. Tomasello was a four-time All-American for Ohio State. 

74-kg, quarterfinals: Chance Marsteller vs. Vincenzo Joseph

Rematch from last week's Last Chance Open. Because why not, right?

86-kg, quarterfinals: Gabe Dean vs. Myles Martin

This weight is LOADED loaded, you guys.

97-kg, quarterfinals: Mike Macchiavello vs. AJ Ferrari

Ferrari became a wrestling (and online) sensation during the NCAA Championships. What will his follow-up performance be this weekend?

125-kg, quarterfinals: Mason Parris vs. Greg Kerkvliet

Two weeks ago, these two guys were NCAA All-Americans. The winner here will advance to the Olympic Trials semifinals.

Women's Freestyle

50-kg, round one: Emily Shilson pinned Sage Mortimer in 2:51

The future of USA women's wrestling right out of the gate. Epic. But Shilson came out firing, leading 9-2 at the time of the pin in the first period.

57-kg, round one: Lauren Louive vs. Shauna Kemp

Louive used to wrestle for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. The winner here gets Alli Ragan, another former HWC wrestler and the 2-seed at this weight.

62-kg, round one: Michaela Beck vs. Ana Luciano

Beck is another former HWC member. Winner gets top-seeded Maya Nelson.


67-kg, round one: Peyton Omania vs. Alston Nutter

First-round matchup between two 2019 Junior world medalists, which will be fun.

60-kg, quarterfinals: Taylor LaMont vs. Dalton Roberts

LaMont was in the NCAA semifinals two weeks ago. A win here pushes him into the Olympic Trials semifinals.

60-kg, quarterfinals: Ryan Mango vs. Travis Rice

Mango's a two-time U.S. Open champ and a 2019 world-teamer. Rice recently won the Last Chance qualifier.

97-kg, quarterfinals: Braxton Amos vs. Eric Twohey

Amos qualified in both styles this weekend at the Last Chance qualifier last weekend. He's in both brackets, too. We'll see what happens.

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