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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Breaking Down the Snyder/Cox Rivalry

    /Files/image/articles/snydercox740.jpgJ'den Cox (left) and Kyle Snyder at the 2022 Rudis Super Match (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    In June 2011 in Fargo, North Dakota, a new rivalry was born between two young phenoms. At the time, J'den Cox was a two-time Missouri State champ as a sophomore, and Kyle Snyder had just won his first National Prep Championship as a freshman. These two battled at Fargo and split matches across styles. Snyder won in freestyle while Cox won in Greco-Roman.

    Since then, these two have faced off in Fargo (again), NCAA's, the US Open, and even in a Rudis Supermatch. All in all, they have faced eight total times, in every major style. Now, they're ready to face off again. This time for another best-of-three series at Final X to decide who will be the world team member at 97kg.

    After the two wrestlers split matches in 2011, they met again at Fargo in 2012. This time, Snyder won in Greco, and Cox won in Freestyle. In both years, these were the wrestler's only losses at Fargo. Neither wrestler won by more than a one-point differential.

    Snyder went on to win gold and bronze at the Junior World Championships in 2013 and 2014, respectively, while in high school.

    At the same time, Cox had finished his high school career and won his first NCAA title for the Missouri Tigers in the 2014 season.

    Coming out of high school, Snyder was #1 in the class of 2014, while Cox was #6. Their eventual college match was highly anticipated, but didn't occur until late in the 2015 season at NCAA's. Ohio State and Missouri had a dual earlier that year, but Missouri's coach Brian Smith made the strategic move to bump Cox up to heavyweight to get the dual win.

    Just months later the two finally met again, in the NCAA semifinals. Cox was the undefeated #1 seed, while Snyder was the #4 seed. Again, the two had a razor-thin match, where Snyder scored the lone takedown on a picture-perfect ankle pick for the 3-2 win.

    Cox went on to finish 5th, while Snyder finished as a runner-up. Ironically, this was the worst NCAA performance by either wrestler through the rest of their careers. Both were four-time All-Americans and three-time NCAA champs without a redshirt.

    While it seemed like the match-up was bound to happen with both wrestlers so young, Snyder ended up bumping up to 285 for the rest of his career while Cox stayed at 197. They both only had one loss for the rest of college.

    While they didn't have another meet-up in college, the pair faced off once again at the 2015 US Open at 97kg. Again, Snyder took a one-point win. He went on to not only make the world team over Olympic champ Jake Varner, but also won his first world title at 19.

    Going into the 2016 Olympic Trials, it once again seemed like the two could match up. However, Cox made the decision to actually cut down to 86kg, while Snyder remained at 97kg.

    The cut paid off, as Cox made the Olympic team taking out Kyle Dake at the Trials. Meanwhile, Snyder beat Jake Varner in three matches to lock up the spot for his first Olympics.

    While both wrestlers still had college eligibility, they each came home from Brazil with Olympic medals. Snyder won gold while Cox finished with a bronze medal.

    Both wrestlers seemed set at their weights. Cox stayed at 86kg in 2017 and won another bronze medal at Worlds after beating David Taylor at the World Team Trials. In 2018 the non-Olympic weight of 92kg was added, and Cox immediately found success with consecutive World titles in 2018 and 2019.

    At the same time, Snyder was dominant himself. He won his third Olympic/World title in 2017, then finished with silver and bronze in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

    In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic brought a postponement for the Olympic Team Trials. On paper, this was a benefit for Cox who had already announced the move to 97kg. However, a late attempt at weigh-ins disqualified the challenger. Snyder went on to win the Trials then win a silver medal at the Olympics.

    Due to the timing of 2021 Worlds, Snyder was the automatic representative for the United States thanks to his medal. Cox dropped back down to 92kg to compete on the same team as Snyder. Cox finished with a bronze and Snyder won another silver medal.

    The night before the 2022 NCAA's began, Cox and Snyder squared off for a best two-of-three series at 97kg hosted by Rudis. Once again, Snyder beat Cox, this time with a 5-5 criteria win in match one and a 7-2 win in match two. This was the biggest score differential in their match history.

    Cox returned to his previous weight of 92kg for the 2022 Worlds while Snyder stayed at 97kg. Snyder won his fourth gold and eighth Olympic/World medal. Cox finished with silver for his sixth Olympic/World medal.

    Now in 2023, the two are set to battle once again at Final X in another best two-of-three series. Snyder earned his spot with his 2022 World medal, while Cox made his way there with a dominant run at the US Open, with his closest match being a 12-3 win over Isaac Trumble in the finals.

    Despite the two having battled for over a decade now, both wrestlers are below 30 years old with years of competition potentially left. While the two have a long history, they've also been on many teams together and trained together multiple times.

    The two beat battle-tested legends while still in college to make their early world teams, and have medals to show for it. They've both spent time at multiple clubs; Cox has spent time at Missouri's RTC (Tiger Style Wrestling Club), the OTC, New Jersey RTC, Ohio RTC, and is now at the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club while Snyder went from the Ohio RTC to PSU's Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.

    Their careers mirror each other in numerous ways throughout high school, college, and senior level, although Snyder currently has the lead on World/Olympic medals.

    Kyle Snyder has already made USA Wrestling history twice, being the youngest American to win a World title at 19, then the youngest American to win Olympic gold at 20. With four golds and eight medals overall, he could be on a legendary path similar to Jordan Burroughs or Bruce Baumgartner.

    J'den Cox could be considered one of the more dynamic wrestlers for the United States with his unique footwork and incredible takedown defense. His multiple Senior level wins over domestic foes and fellow World champions Kyle Dake and David Taylor are only matched by the aforementioned Jordan Burroughs.

    This match-up could be especially important, as a 2023 World medal means that they can sit in the finals of the Olympic Team Trials in 2024. Snyder has the advantage historically, but both wrestlers are sure to have new wrinkles to their game for this match.

    While Final X is filled with intrigue and incredible matches, the Snyder-Cox pairing will have a huge influence on not just World/Olympic teams, but individual legacies as well.

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