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Balancing wrestling and being a father is a joyful task for Provisor

By Alexandra Pernice | Feb. 06, 2015, 10:11 a.m. (ET)

Ben Provisor gets coaching advice in his corner during the 2015 Dave Schultz Memorial International finals. Photo by John Sachs,

Thinking about where he wanted his future to go was always pretty clear for 2012 Olympian Ben Provisor. There was no doubt in his mind from early on who and what he wanted to be.

“It was crazy. My freshman year in high school I wrote a goals sheet. My coach asked us what our ultimate goals were, and I didn’t say state champion. I said 2012 Olympian,” said Provisor.

For the wrestler who started at age six, the goal to be an Olympic athlete seemed very lofty to others. Even his beginnings in high school in Stevens Point, Wis. were not the kind that one might look for in an eventual star.

“High school sort of left a sour taste in my mouth, especially during my senior year. I had never won a state title which was rough. I knew I was the best in some competitions and in some I wasn’t. I know in one competition I was hurt, one state tournament I was sick. My senior year I did everything humanly possible to win a state title, and I knew it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Provisor.

However, he was an exceptional wrestler outside of folkstyle. For Provisor, he found a love for Greco-Roman wrestling early on, and acted upon it by traveling to Bulgaria at the age of 13 to train for six months.

“It was difficult for me to be so far from home, but it was awesome to go to another country and train every day. Honestly, when I went over to Bulgaria, I realized that I could really beat their kids on the mat. I could compete with their younger senior guys at my age. I wrestled with Ivo Angelov and Aleksandar Kostadinov when I was 13. I also had the opportunity to go to Northern Michigan with Ivan Ivanov when I got back. Spending six months in Bulgaria was really a turning point in my career. It let me see how blessed I am to be an American, and see how advanced I was as a wrestler already,” said Provisor.

In Stevens Point, he was coached by one of the greatest U.S. Greco-Roman stars of all time, World champion and Olympic silver medalist Dennis Hall. Being around top coaches was always important to him.

“I think it got me ready for a bigger stage, having him around all the time. Dennis meant everything to my development as an athlete. To have such a great resource in him at a young age was invaluable. I don’t think he could be replaced, I was blessed to have him in my hometown and born where I was,” said Provisor.

After high school he moved away from Stevens Point to attend Northern Michigan University and train with the U.S. Olympic Education Center program. Surrounded by great talent and coaching, he saw an opportunity to truly build his career.

“It was awesome, being a part of it and getting to follow my dreams. It was great to be able to go to school and train at the same time. But things just didn’t fall into place for me,” said Provisor.

While the U.S. Olympic Education Program provided him with an excellent opportunity to grow, he was discouraged when the Greco-Roman program’s coaches, Ivan Ivanov and Jim Gruenwald, pursued other job opportunities.

“I wanted to be coached by Ivan Ivanov and Jim Gruenwald because I had always been coached by Dennis. I just wanted another set of eyes on me, from other great wrestlers. Unfortunately, they left the program,” said Provisor.

Although he wasn’t looking to be coached by Hall at the time, Provisor was still grateful to work with somebody who had been by his side since it all began.

“It just so happened that Dennis had followed me up there [to Northern Michigan], and it was awesome to have him there. It just didn’t work out though,” said Provisor.

Hall left Northern Michigan University after a year, and Provisor made the decision to make a change for himself.

“Harry Lester, Jake Fisher, Andy Bisek, Cheney Haight, all of those guys left the education center at the same time. Those were the guys I couldn’t beat, and I wanted to be with them,” said Provisor.

He left for the Olympic Training Center to pursue the next step in his career. It was a change that continues to benefit his life to this day.

“I drove the 16 hours from Wisconsin to here [Colorado Springs] and it was awesome. I love the weather and I like how dry it is here. I think it has been a great experience moving out here. Being around the sport med people and the weight lifting people that have helped me improve my strength and agility so much has been a great benefit here at the Olympic Training Center,” said Provisor.

As a resident athlete, he quickly found his skills improving and his perspective as an athlete changing.

“I take more hours to take care of myself, as far as treatment and recovery. I was lucky when I moved out here that I was already No. 2 at 74 kg, and I didn’t have time for school. I was able to focus on wrestling and improving as an athlete,” said Provisor.

His time in Colorado Springs had found him success, especially concerning his goals to be an Olympic athlete. In 2012, Provisor fulfilled his ultimate goal by qualifying for Team USA to compete at the Olympic Games in London.

“I was a little bit in shock because it was so different than any other trip I had ever taken. The experience was amazing. I was walking around and taking pictures with people like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, all of these people I had seen on TV. It was amazing to be looked at as one of the best athletes in the world and get to represent my country,” said Provisor.

In London, he competed at 74 kg/163 lbs and ended up placing eleventh in the Games. In his first match he defeated Alexei Bel of Cuba, but ended up falling short in his next match with Zurabi Datunashvili of Georgia. When the Georgian failed to reach the finals, Provisor was knocked out of the competition.

Now that he has achieved his true goal, he is looking for the next big thing. Although he is not currently competing at an Olympic weight, he is taking this year to refocus his efforts. However, his want to return to the Olympic Games is present.

“Right now I don’t really have a plan as far as the Olympic year goes. I’m taking this year in stride. Last year was a big learning lesson for me. I was hurt almost all year, so I’m taking it almost a month at a time, even a day at a time. I’m just trying to stay healthy and fit for my matches. This year, my goal is to wrestle 80 kg the entire time and make the World Team. I’m hoping to bring home a World title for the U.S. and after that I will decide with my coaches, Momir Petkovik and Matt Lindland, and figure the Olympics out. Right now, I’d say if I had to decide, I would wrestle for the Olympics at 85 kg. I hope to go to Rio though, and have a few more Olympic experiences,” said Provisor.

He has many other things to focus outside of the wrestling room. In 2012, Provisor married women’s freestyler and two-time World team member Leigh Jaynes. Together, they have a daughter, Evelyn, who he believes has changed his world for the better.

“Having Evelyn really focused me. I don’t think I could be any more focused now that we have Evelyn. It isn’t just me I’m providing for anymore, it’s now my little baby girl that I brought into this world. She’s changed my perspective on almost everything and how prepared I am for everything now. It’s awesome to be with Leigh because she knows what I’m going through with wrestling, and we have great support from our family,” said Provisor.

Being a father not only drives him to provide for his family, but also motivates him to continue with his career.

“Evelyn loves being around wrestling. Just the other day she ran out on the mat at the Pinto Cup in front of everybody. She isn’t afraid of anything. It’s great to have my daughter see all of these experiences. I know Leigh’s career may be coming to an end, but I’m going to be wrestling for awhile longer so Evelyn will be able to watch. Hopefully she’ll get to see a few more Olympic performances from me,” said Provisor.

For a man who still dubs himself as “hyper-competitive” as an adult, he is very humble about the process of success. Provisor is far from the finish line of his career, and he is ready to see what comes next.

“With the circumstances and people that I’ve had in my life, I’ve just been blessed. I just try to work as hard as I can every day to get better. If wins come with that, I’m appreciative. If losses come with that, I’m going to try and learn from them. I wasn’t nervous wrestling at the Olympics-it just felt like I should be there. And hopefully I will get to feel that same way at Rio as well,” said Provisor.