At this stage, it seems like a formality two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (85 kg) will be leaving Wisconsin.
Shortly after enduring a startling last-second defeat at the hands of Oleksander Shyshman (UKR) in the qualification round of the 2017 World Championships last month in Paris, Provisor indicated that a potential opportunity to join the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in State College, Pennsylvania was his preferred next move. Fellow 2017 US World Team member and Penn State commit Mason Manville (75 kg), the all-style prodigy who surged to the forefront of the national Greco consciousness with his win at April’s Trials, did a brunt of his training for that event in State College and has played a role in swerving Provisor’s thought process in this direction.
As most US wrestling fans are aware, Penn State’s success has reached dynastic proportions. The college team has won six of the last seven NCAA national championships and continues to restock its stable with top-flight recruits. On the freestyle side of things, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club offers similar high-powered talent in the likes of David Taylor and Frank Molinaro, among others. That Greco-Roman has not been a part of the programs’ histories is apparently not an issue here for Provisor. Should this deal go through, “Big Ben” looks forward to training with the star-studded cast of characters available and he even might serve as sort of a roving instructor in the room, aiding the coaches in showing Greco techniques to the leg-grabbers whilst he prepares for his own competitive endeavors.
Provisor is visiting with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club this week and getting some training in, so this felt like an opportune time to ask him about where things stand, what he expects, and how he sees this all fitting in at this point in his career.
Ben Provisor — 85 kg
5PM: Okay, walk me through it. What is your status now as far as your training situation exactly?
Ben Provisor: I’m not really able to bring the people I need into Wisconsin and now, Mason (Manville) is here at Penn State. Obviously, Cael (Sanderson) and Jake Varner are here. I just think it’s a great opportunity for me to be around people who have accomplished what I want to accomplish, which is becoming an Olympic Champion. They are doing a lot of the right things obviously with all of the success they have at the NCAA tournaments the last five, six years, and I just want to be around people who believe I can be an Olympic and World Champion every single day. I know Dennis (Hall) and Joel (Berens) believe that, but I just don’t have the partners in Wisconsin to be able to stay there. I don’t have the finances to stay there, either.
For the last eight years, I have been top-three in the United States, since I was 19. I made two Olympic Teams, I made a World Team, and most people who have reached that level of success in any other profession are well taken care of and well-off financially. Right now in Wisconsin, I have to coach high school and go do extra tournaments on the weekends to fund my wrestling career, and I haven’t been able to fully concentrate on my craft. Here, with a little financial backing, I can truly concentrate on my wrestling every single day.
5PM: Given the way Penn State and the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club are structured around freestyle and folkstyle, what are we talking about in terms of training partners for you when it comes to Greco?
BP: Well, I have Mason here and honestly, the last few days that I have been here, I wrestled mostly with Varner. Right now, Varner and I are close to the same size, he’s gotten a little smaller since he stopped competing, and he’s a big, strong guy for me to pummel and hand-fight with. Obviously, I’ll be helping the heavyweights and maybe tweaking some of the bigger guys’ pummeling skills. Even the lower-weight guys, I’ll be showing them how to, I guess, correctly use ties and stuff like that.
But as far as training partners, Mason is here. Bo Nickal is here. David Taylor is here. Like I said, Cael wrestles every single day, Varner wrestles every single day, so don’t think I could ask for any better partners.
5PM: At this point in your career, do you need a specialized Greco coach? Or is Hall going to coach you via proxy here and there? What is going to happen when it comes to strategizing training plans and stuff like that? How is this all going to work?
BP: I think strategy-wise, I know a lot of stuff and I have been coming into my own in terms of technique the last few years. Dennis has said to me multiple times that it’s not about when you figure out how to win, but when you figure out how to wrestle your own style. That is what I’ve been doing the last few months and years. I have been coming up with my own different types of moves and positional things that I’ve been working on. They haven’t come to fruition in matches yet, but I have been working on different types of techniques. And really, a lot of it comes from feeling what my opponents are giving me.
Definitely, Dennis is never going to be away from my wrestling. He is still going to be a big part of my career and I am always going to go back to him and ask for advice. Dennis is never not going to be involved in my career. But as far as training plans and stuff like that goes, I am going to do the preseason workouts with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club here, get in great folkstyle shape, great Greco shape, and hopefully get ready. Like I said, I know I am on the cusp of winning a World medal. Even that match I had at Worlds, I should have won, but I let a headbutt frustrate me and get me out of my game plan. As far as training goes, I just need to keep improving every single day, keep getting better at wrestling every single day, work on my technique, and work on how I am going to score in six minutes. I am still having a hard time with getting takedowns and turns in matches.
5PM: During this visit, how have you come to like the surrounding area in State College? Do you like the neighborhood, the aesthetics?
BP: Yeah, I love it. It’s a small town feel here. You come to State College and it’s actually a very small town. Most of the money and revenue comes from the college and five minutes outside of here, it looks like a small town. There are a lot of farms. Me living on a farm the last few years really brought a sense of peace and a sense of being able to relax in my life. Hopefully, if I commit to coming out here after this visit, I can find a little farmhouse somewhere out in the middle of nowhere or 20 minutes outside of town, set up my roots there, and have a nice place for my daughter and I to come home to.
5PM: As of now, are you looking to compete at the Dave Schultz Memorial so you can get a feel for the format, the weight, the weigh-ins, and everything else?
Ben Provisor: Yeah, I’m definitely down to compete at the Schultz. It’s $1,500 that I am probably going to need. So yeah, I am most likely going to compete at Schultz. For the format and stuff, I’m not really worried about that, the same-day weigh-ins. It’s 191 (lbs) now or something. That is not going to be a big cut for me. It’s going to be pretty easy for me. And what, it’s going to plus-two kilos the next day? I mean, I think it’d be good for getting a feel, but it depends on what goes on with me signing here. If I end up signing here and start the moving process, I might not be ready to compete by Schultz because of me having to get up and move my life from Wisconsin to Penn State. It depends on if my body is ready. If I’m physically and mentally ready to compete, then I’ll definitely be at Schultz and looking to win that again.
5PM: How long did it take you to get the taste out of your mouth from Paris?
BP: You know, it didn’t take me long, but it definitely did leave a sour little taste in my mouth afterwards. It was a situation where I was winning with :15 left and I don’t think I’ve ever been scored on with that amount of time remaining. I let him frustrate me when I shouldn’t have been frustrated. I was talking to my team and myself about how I can only control what I am doing in a match. But after that second headbutt, I was really frustrated. It really seemed like the refs weren’t concerned about protecting me because the first and second headbutts were very deliberate.
It is what it is. I can’t control what he did. I walked off the mat like, It is what it is, I have to learn to not let what he did control and upset me. I have to learn and get better from it. I know I’m meant to be here on this stage and represent God in this situation. This is what he wants me to do and hopefully, this is the right situation for me to set my life up and my path towards winning the Olympics in 2020. I want to win a few World medals first and then hopefully move on from there. But I have to get in a situation where I don’t have to worry about my finances in my life because unfortunately, that has been a big part of my struggle. I haven’t been able to just truly concentrate on wrestling because I’ve been worried about my finances.
5PM: The Worlds might not have worked out, but your year as a whole, from my perspective, was great. You were consistent, clutch when you had to be, made the World Team, and the best part about all of it is you didn’t suffer any injuries that took you off the mat. When you look back at your year of competition, what do you see as the highlights and what were you most encouraged by?
BP: Yeah, it was a relief not to have any injuries. 2016 and 2017 have been the first seasons since 2012 that I’ve been uninjured. So it was definitely relieving and it was nice to wrestle a full season, wrestle a lot of competitions, and I got a lot more experience this year in a lot more tournaments than in past years because I was injured.
My highlights this past season, I wrestled great in Georgia and took that silver medal at the Grand Prix. That was a big highlight for me. Also, the World Team Trials was a big highlight for me because I think it showed a lot of people that you don’t really need to be at a training center, that you don’t need to be in an area where it is all strictly Greco in order to win. I’ve had great mentors in my life like Dennis, my mom, Troy Steiner, people who have set my life up with how hard I should wrestle, how hard I should work, and I’ve been really lucky and blessed with the people in my life who I’ve had.
It was great to have a full season. I had a lot of matches. Winning Trials was big for me because I believe it was by far the toughest weight class in the US and I came through it without giving up a point. And I hope people in the United States start realizing that you should not wrestle in my weight if you want to make a World or Olympic Team, because I am not going to be the person you are going to beat. When it comes down to the Olympic Team Trials or the World Team Trials, I am going to be at 100%. I am going to be ready, and with these new weight classes, realize that. So we’ll see what happens this year and where people go weight-class-wise. But I guarantee that not all of the same guys are going to be at my weight.
It has been a great year getting to know my body better and it’s exciting to be in a situation where I can be in a wrestling room every day with high-level partners and high-level coaches. Dennis is obviously a high-level coach, but you also need high-level partners and we haven’t been able to provide that in Wisconsin.
5PM: Is that the toughest part about this prospective decision, that staying in Wisconsin would be great, it’s just you can’t bring partners in enough on a consistent basis for you to where it’ll have a longstanding effect?
Ben Provisor: I’m leaving my coach who I have trusted and loved my whole life. It sucks that I’m not able to stay there. He even moved closer. His new house is five minutes away from where I live now. He’s close to me and he’s been like a father to me. So it is definitely a tough situation for me to leave, but if I don’t, just like my relationship I had in the past, if I didn’t leave that situation it would have always held me back from being who I wanted to be. This is the same thing. If I don’t get the bodies, partners, and resources to set up my life and get to where I need to be, then I’m not doing the right thing for my life.
I really feel like God put this situation in my life, with Mason making the team as a freshman in college this year and giving me the opportunity to come to Penn State and hopefully being a part of this program. I know I can help them with a lot of hand-fighting tricks and stuff. It’s going to be pretty scary if Penn State can learn how to hand-fight the way Greco-Roman guys do and shoot the way they already do. I think Penn State with the addition of me here is only going to get that much better.