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Wrestling Block || US Olympian Ben Provisor returns to both mat and classroom

Photo by Joseph Cress Iowa City Press Citizen

Greco-Roman wrestling has taken Ben Provisor across the globe. The Stevens Point, Wis. native was a four-time state place-winner for Stevens Point Area High School (SPASH). Under 1996 Olympic Silver Medalist Dennis Hall’s tutelage, Provisor found success in Greco, winning a Cadet National title in 2006. To chase his Olympic dreams, Provisor chose Greco over competing in the college folkstyle ranks. After more than a decade of traveling the world and representing the US at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, Provisor has a new goal: He’s going back to school.

Last month, Provisor announced that he would be joining head coach Nick Mitchell at Grand View University as a student-athlete. Grand Valley participates in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), not the NCAA. As members of the NAIA, Grand View emerged as the premier program, winning ten straight NAIA National Championships.

Back to school

Photo by Tony Rotunda

“For me, I wanted to get my education. I was coaching [as a volunteer assistant] at Bucknell [University] and was frustrated that I couldn’t move up in the coaching ranks. In order to affect wrestling in the biggest way in the United States, you gotta be with be a college program. You gotta have your college degree to do that. I want to be able to give back to the sport that made me who I am.”

Though Provisor attended Northern Michigan University’s Olympic Educational Center Greco-Roman program, he never enrolled in more than twelve credit hours. He also did not attend a school with a folkstyle wrestling team, so he was never considered a full-time student. Under NCAA rules, Provisor’s eligibility clock would have ticked down years ago. However, to Provisor’s surprise, he still had four years of NAIA eligibility remaining. After applying to NAIA schools, Provisor reached out to Grand View assistant Grant Turner to see if the program was interested.

Grand View’s first and only head coach, Nick Mitchell, has created a model of success and consistency unheard of in the NAIA. In Mitchell’s thirteen seasons, the Vikings have won ten straight national team championships while developing more than thirty individual national champions and over seventy individual conference champions. More importantly, Mitchell’s teams have set a standard in the classroom. The Vikings have finished in the top fifteen in the country every year of their championship decade, including a runner-up academic finish in 2015. Mitchell has brought an NCAA Division I program mentality to the NAIA. The Grand View women’s program recently made waves by singing 2016 Olympian Ally Ragan as a coach. Grand View is the perfect place for Provisor to grow as an athlete and as a future coach.

In order to affect wrestling in the biggest way in the United States, you gotta be with be a college program.

Photo by Joseph Cress Iowa City Press Citizen

Though Provisor hasn’t wrestled a folkstyle match since high school, he is uniquely prepared for the challenge. On top of coaching a year at Bucknell, the two years Provisor spent as part of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club (NLWC) more than made up for any time lost. The NLWC is the Regional Training Center program of Penn State University. Under head coach and 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Cael Sanderson, the Penn State/NLWC programs won eight NCAA Division I team titles, twenty-eight individual NCAA Championships, on top of developing multiple World and Olympic medalists. Provisor, as a Greco Olympian, trained alongside many of them.

“Pennsylvania is by far the best folkstyle state in the country. I’ve been wrestling more folkstyle in the past four years than any point in my life. I’m really comfortable there. People are gonna think I won’t be able to shoot or scramble, but I’ll be able to now because of Cael and that coaching staff.”

Though many athletes seem to lose steam after passing age thirty, Provisor feels this is his best shape, physically and mentally, since embarking on his international career. As for a weight class, Provisor will do whatever is best for the team. Though he walks around at a natural 200 lbs., he feels that he could compete anywhere from 184 lbs., to 197 lbs., even up at heavyweight. With a wealth of talent and experience behind him, it’s easy to understand Provisor’s confidence. Whatever helps both him and the Vikings win four additional team and individual National titles.

“Just being around Penn State and seeing the way they live their lives and truly concentrating on what you do off the mat as far living what Coach Mitchell calls ‘a championship lifestyle.’ From my training to my eating and sleeping habits and just being thankful for the opportunity. Now I have the opportunity to get a $160,000 education for free.”

Post-college, Provisor sees himself either coaching at the college level or helping the struggling US Greco-Roman developmental program. Either way, Provisor wants to give back to the sport of wrestling.

“I’m just excited for what it may be. I’m thirty years old, I really don’t have a lot of tread on my tires. This is the only thing I’ve ever really done. I’ve never had to have a real job. I’ve only had to train, and I feel like I have a lot left in the tank.”

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