IOWA CITY, Iowa – If you had asked most observers yesterday who would be the favorite at 85 kg in the 2016 Olympic Trials, almost unanimously you would have heard the name “Jordan Holm.” Holm (Minnesota Storm) came into the Greco Olympic Trials as not only the top-ranked guy at the weight, but also as a dominant force. Making multiple World teams and winning just about every domestic tournament in the span of a few years will do that to a reputation.
The problem is, Holm wasn’t operating inside of a vacuum. Ben Provisor (NYAC), the 2012 Olympic representative at 74 kg, presented a sizable threat to Holm’s quest to make it to Rio. And it isn’t as if Provisor was largely ignored by the sport’s experts – he wasn’t. It’s just that Holm has been in control of this weight for seemingly so long, it was perhaps too easy to forget what Provisor himself is capable of.
So when Ben Provisor grinded his way to a 3-0 victory over Holm in the 85 kg semifinal, the word “upset” rang through the arena. However, a Provisor victory over anyone should not be considered as such. Discounting the attitude and arsenal of a returning Olympian is as much of a sand trap as there is. If Provisor was to be labeled an underdog, then a very “live” dog he was.
If the people want an underdog, is Jake Clark a fitting subject? The 36 year old Hawaiian-by-way-of-Minnesota injured his shoulder coming out of the 2012 OTT before taking time off to repair, rehab, and then start his own academy in the Pacific. It was just about three years when Clark triumphantly returned at the Bill Farrell Invitational, and just a little longer than that when he ran through the field at the 2015 Nationals/OTT Qualifier. Clark did not surrender a point on the way to his national title victory, a feat so impressive that the great wrestling writers’ community hasn’t figured out how to adequately describe it even still.
As such, it won’t be Holm matching up with Clark in a dream “mentor-student” best-of-three. And it won’t be Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) attempting to punch his ticket to Brazil. Instead, we have two men, two outstanding competitors who have nothing else between them aside from potentially 18 minutes of intense, nerve-wracking action.
On one hand, you have Provisor, the Wisconsin native and protege of the great Dennis Hall who is coming back from an injury of his own to try and re-claim a spot on the US Greco Olympic Team. On the other is Jake Clark, who is here to play more than the role of “savvy veteran.” Clark has shown remarkable poise and a knack for punishing counter-attacks since his return. How these two match up later tonight is going to be something to see.
Will Provisor’s relentless inside style be enough to rattle the usually-composed Clark? Can Clark set traps on the edge for Provisor to walk into? One thing is for sure – this isn’t going to be as much of a chess match as it will an all-out brawl. There’s too much on the line, too many dreams to fulfill on one blue mat, too much pain waiting to be explored. Forget that they met at the Open a few months back (with Clark prevailing). This is a different night with exceedingly different stakes.
You might have figured it was Holm. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It might not be the story that everyone was expecting, but it is one every bit as enthralling.
The sun is going to set in Iowa tonight at around 7:41pm. There’s going to be an old-fashioned duel. It will be conducted with uniforms, officials, and bright lights. You won’t want to miss it.