Olympic Trials: A victory for Team Provisor

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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Tammy and Dennis Provisor sat watching nervously as 21-year-old son Ben Provisor grappled with Aaron Sieracki in the Olympic wrestling trials' best-of-three finals on Sunday.

It was the third match in the series. Sieracki (Army) won the first match by way of a 1-0, 0-1, 2-0 decision before Ben Provisor (Sunkist Kids) stole the second bout in a straight-period decision, 2-0, 1-0.

Tammy Provisor was restless going into the third and final match, because it was going to decide which wrestler would represent the USA in the Greco-Roman 74-kg division in the London Olympics this summer.

Dennis Provisor paced back and forth along the top of the bowl at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, wondering if his son could avenge his second-place finish at the World Team Trials a year ago.

He did. Ben Provisor claimed a 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 decision over Sieracki and clinched his first trip to the Olympic Games.

Provisor began wrestling at the age of 7, and his family spent the next 15 years doing whatever it took to make sure he got exactly what he needed to succeed.

"Ben has worked 15 years for this, and it has paid off," his mother said as she cried after his match. "He has gone through ups and downs, and it finally paid off today."

The Olympic dream was consumed by the entire Provisor clan. It began with the mother and father, who got Ben Provisor started in wrestling and drove him all around for practice when he was young. His younger siblings and cousins became amazed by his skills, and aunts and uncles followed suit.

By the time Provisor arrived in Iowa City for the trials, he said he had a following of around 82 fans. All of them sported a "Team Provisor" shirt as they took up two rows in the stands of Carver-Hawkeye. The crowd was an electric group that yelled and hollered during each of Provisor's matches on Sunday morning and afternoon.

The decibel level from the Team Provisor section was second only to the noise received by the Hawkeyes who took to the mat throughout the weekend. The noise reached its peak after Provisor clinched his spot on the Greco-Roman team.

"This is just a dream come true for us," Dennis Provisor said. "We're just so proud of him that we can't even believe it."

Much of Team Provisor made the four-hour trek from Stevens Point, Wis., to watch him wrestle on Sunday. The family lived vicariously through him each time he stepped on the mat.

Dennis Provisor especially felt the pressure during Ben's third match, when scoring was kept to a minimum. He was too excited to string together a sentence when asked how he felt.

"Heart attack. Blood pressure," he said, beaming. "It's just — you know."

Not all of Team Provisor shares the last name or even the same blood. Provisor's parents were quick to point out one of their son's lifelong coaches, 10-time U.S. national champion Dennis Hall.

Hall has been with Ben Provisor since he began wrestling. He noticed his pupil's love for the sport and watched it grow as he continued to get better. He said Provisor can be hard-headed, but he also listened intently and is an extremely hard worker. Lack of motivation wasn't going to be the reason Ben wouldn't succeed, Hall said.

"It's a team effort, man. He did the work," Hall said. "I told him, 'You know, you could have more medals at the world level than I have. But it's up to you.' "

That would be a lot of medals. Hall's résumé includes an Olympic silver from 1996 and a 1995 World Championship, when he defeated five former World Champs to claim the gold.

Hall said he felt what Dennis Provisor felt when he watched his student defeat Sieracki on Sunday night, and that "team" feeling continued to grow as the Provisor parents received dozens of handshakes and hugs following the victory.

And Ben Provisor wouldn't have wanted to win the Olympic berth in front of — or for — anybody but Team Provisor.

"I couldn't be happier right now," the newly crowned 2012 Olympian said moments after his final match. "To do it in front of the people I love — my mom, my dad — they mean everything to me and this sport."

But just how much of Provisor's home team will make the trip across the pond?

"A lot of them," Ben said. "I've got a good family."

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