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USMC's Cox excited to be headed to wrestling Olympic Trials
Rick Scoppe , The Daily News Jacksonville, NC Picture credit: John Althouse

The 27-year old Cox, who wrestles at 66 kilograms in Greco-Roman, is one of six members of the Marine Corps wrestling team based at Camp Lejeune to earn a spot in the Olympic Trials, which will be held Saturday and Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa.John Cox USMC wrestling

The winner in each weight class earns a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and will be headed to London, with the second-place finisher serving as an alternate if anything happens to the trials champion to prevent him from going.

“John was a great wrestler in high school. He’s got a ton of experience, and he’s kind of a gamer,” USMC coach Dan Hicks said. “He’s relatively new at this level in Greco-Roman, but he’s a gamer. He (beats) guys he supposedly shouldn’t beat and he’s got a nasty headlock, and he’s a hard worker. So he kind of snuck up on a few people.

“He’s done well and he’s learned a lot. He’s got a good chance. But he’s at a tough weight. The No. 1 guy at his weight is probably our best chance for a medal (at the Olympics), I think.

” While a first-timer to the Olympic Trials, Cox, who is a captain and has been in the Marines since 2007, is a wrestling veteran, taking up the sport when he was 5 while growing up in Grand Haven, Mich.

“I wanted to be like my big brother,” Cox said during a recent interview. “He won a varsity letter his freshman year (in high school). So I thought that was pretty cool. So I wanted to be like him. He was a big, tough guy.

“He’d always bench press me. He’d throw me against the wall. I always wanted to be able to beat him up, but I never could.”

Cox, who also played football and rugby in high school, made the state wrestling championships all four years in high school, finishing fifth as a freshman and sophomore and third as a junior before winning the state title as a senior.

Then Cox went on to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he wrestled for five years and made the round of 12 in the NCAA championships as a junior.

And while he would like to return to rugby once he “retires” from wrestling, for now the mat’s where it’s at for Cox “Wrestling, it’s a mano a mano sport. Everything you’ve done and everything you’ve prepared to do, how much sleep you’ve got, how well you take care of your body, it all reflects. Everything is reflected on the mat,” Cox said.

“Here it’s you. There’s nobody else. It’s you and the other man. There’s no excuse for anything else.”

While excited to make the trials, Cox said he’s focused on not letting “emotions get into it” once the action starts.

“It’s just another match. I’m going in there to do business. I watch my potential opponents every day on You Tube, and I’m just going in there with the same attitude as I would any other match, just trying to be a lot smarter as this is it. This is all I got. There is no tomorrow,” he said.

Cox said a key for him is not to “let things go” in the final few seconds of the match.

“I lost a couple matches getting turned at the last second,” he said, “like literally two seconds to go.”

With more than 11,000 fans are expected at the Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, this will be the biggest event in Cox’s wrestling career, and he feels he’s ready for the big crowds and bright lights.

“I talked to coach about that,” Cox said. “I went to world team trials last year. That was an experience. There were a lot of people there, probably a couple thousand. … It’s kind of like going to state (high school championships) for the first time, just like going to NCAAs for the first time. All you do is see lights and get you nervous.

“I told (coach) at this time I’m feeling comfortable, I’m feeling like I’m in my zone. I’m not getting nervous. I really feel like I’m going to be able to concentrate on my game this time.”