The anticipated Cox-Snyder matchup in Saturday’s final was the top story line going into trials, and Cox’s failure to make weight became the biggest news in the first hours of the event at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.
A three-time NCAA champion at Missouri, Cox had to fight his way onto the 2016 Olympic team after dropping down to 86 kg and receiving a ninth seed in that spring’s trials. Despite having a bye into the semifinals of this year’s trials, Cox seemed annoyed that he again had to fight his way onto the team and promised to use the situation as motivation for this weekend.
“I don’t want to use the word I’m ‘angry’ or ‘p—– off,’ but after this for me no one will have proven that they were supposed to be on these teams more than I,” Cox said last week during a video news conference. “I have a lot to prove to myself for these coming trials. I do have a chip on my shoulder for this. I do have a goal and something to aim for as far as what I’m trying to do on this level. I’m not giving up my spot anymore; what’s mine is mine. I’ve earned it. I’ve fought for it. I’ve represented this team and this country for it. I did it time and time again. This spot is mine. I’m sitting. Period. The end. That’s the role; that’s the goal.”
Cox’s disqualification lessens the challenge faced by Snyder, the only American male to win a freestyle gold medal in 2016. Snyder, from Woodbine, Md., took bronze at the 2019 world championships but has won 16 straight international matches since. As a top seed in the trials, he has a bye into Saturday night’s final.
Left unclear Friday is Cox’s future. He is 26, has talked openly about battles with depression and considers himself a mental health advocate, speaking to others about their struggles. Last week, he spoke of the joy he got from training with neighbors who saw him working out in a local park in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. He said their workout successes helped inspire him in his own training.
Still, he sounded most focused on making it back to the Olympics, which made Friday’s missed weight so surprising.
“I’m here to destroy everybody,” he said.