Ben Provisor, a two-time Olympian and Senior greco national champ, has big plans for his Grand View career

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

CORALVILLE, Ia. — Ben Provisor won a Senior Greco-Roman national title on Friday at Xtream Arena, and the jokes that followed left him belly-laughing.

"Not bad for a true freshman," Grand View coach Nick Mitchell told Provisor afterward.

"Best one I've heard yet," Provisor responded while laughing — then proceeded to make an Instagram post with that exact caption.

Provisor made ginormous waves Thursday when he announced plans to sign and wrestle with Grand View, the NAIA powerhouse that's won nine national team titles in the last 10 years. This comes on the heels of a successful greco career during which he made both the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic teams. He will turn 31 this June.

On Friday, Provisor added another title to his résumé, going 3-0 and finishing first at 82 kilograms (180 pounds) in the Senior greco competition. He defeated Peyton Walsh, 6-3, in Friday night's finals. He collectively outscored his three opponents 24-3, and is now a four-time Senior national champion, adding to his titles in 2011, 2013, and 2018.

Ben Provisor, right, wrestles John Hagey at 82 kg during the UWW Senior national Greco-Roman wrestling championships, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Afterward, Provisor admitted to reading all the jokes that came with his Grand View commitment, and there were plenty.

His teammates are going to call him Uncle Ben.

Grand View loses the national team title one time and adds an Olympian to the roster.

Next to commit: Milo of Croton — a nod to the six-time Olympic champ of the sixth century.

Some folks jokingly asked if Henry Cejudo, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, was available to wrestle at Reinhardt, another NAIA wrestling program. A picture of Aaron Pico, who famously spurred college wrestling in favor of an early start to his professional fighting career, donning a Life University singlet made the rounds on Twitter.

"There's been so many," Provisor said. "People really don't like Grand View because they have that reputation of winning, and me joining the team is going to bring a lot of haters. Hey, it's OK. I think it's awesome."

But beneath all the jokes, Provisor has big plans for his Grand View tenure.

Why did Ben Provisor choose Grand View wrestling?

The main reason Provisor decided to return to college, even in his 30s, even after a successful wrestling career, was so he could coach. He wants to continue his wrestling career and has plans to contend for both the 2024 and 2028 Olympic teams, but he needs an education to pursue coaching.

He settled on Grand View because, one, NAIA's eligibility rules allowed it; two, because of Grand View's winning tradition; and three, because of Mitchell's commitment to providing opportunities for his wrestlers. Provisor will be able to compete and coach over the next 4-5 years before fully transitioning into coaching full time.

Ben Provisor talks with coaches between periods while wrestling at 82 kg during the UWW Senior national Greco-Roman wrestling championships, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Provisor's addition makes the Grand View room an even more attractive training spot for wrestlers in central Iowa, around the state, and around the Midwest, too. An Olympian will be there to practice with and teach technique. Not many programs, at any level, can say that.

Even more, greco isn't nearly as popular as freestyle or collegiate folkstyle, but Provisor's availability and success could help raise the sport's profile.

"The whole Midwest, that's where a lot of our best greco guys come from," said Provisor, who is originally from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. "Greco in America is very far behind, and I think we need to band together, as a team, to become better.

"It's going to be a great opportunity for a lot of people to get better."

Provisor said he hasn't wrestled folkstyle since he was in high school. He was a three-time Wisconsin state medalist from 2006-09. He's produced successful freestyle results during his international career, winning gold at the 2018 Pan-American Championships in Peru. Freestyle, the other Olympic discipline, closely resembles collegiate folkstyle.

But Provisor is excited for the opportunity, both to compete and to coach. More importantly, he's thinking much bigger than just winning more titles for Grand View. He's ready to give back and impact wrestlers in the same way his many coaches have helped him during his successful career.

Not a bad plan — especially for, technically speaking at least, a true freshman.

Grand View greco wrestlers shine

Provisor was one of four Grand View wrestlers to wrestle well in the greco competition on Friday.

Justin McCunn, a redshirt freshman from Red Oak, reached the finals of the Junior greco national championships at 77 kilograms (169 pounds), but fell in the best-of-three series to Matthew Singleton, who swept the series, two matches to none. As a result, Singleton will compete at the Junior world championships later this summer.

Gabe Lewis, another redshirt freshman from Denver, took seventh in the Junior greco tournament at 72 kilos (158). He reached the quarterfinals and finished 4-2 overall. Elijah Varona was the fourth Viking wrestler to finish on the podium, taking eighth at 55 kilos (121) in the Senior tournament.

Iowa high schoolers produce strong greco results

Six Iowa high-schoolers, competing against a mix of other high-schoolers and college wrestlers, earned All-American honors in the Junior greco national tournament on Friday, and five finished in the top five at their weights.

Iowa City West's Hunter Garvin (67-kg), West Delaware's Wyatt Voelker (87-kg) and Southeast Polk's Kalob Runyon (97-kg) all finished fourth. Garvin reached the semifinals and finished 4-2 overall. Voelker and Runyon both won three consolation matches to reach the third-place matches. Voelker finished 4-2 and Runyon finished 3-2.

Logan-Magnolia's Hagen Heistand went 2-2 and finished fifth at 63 kilos. Gilbert's Fernando Villaescusa went 3-2 and took fifth at 82 kilos. Osage's Spencer Mooberry went 3-2 and took seventh at 87 kilos, dropping an 8-0 result to Voelker in the wrestlebacks along the way.

Loras' Hannah makes Junior finals

Tyler Hannah, a freshman at Loras, also made the Junior national finals, at 87 kilos, but lost to California native Kodiak Stephens, two matches to one, to miss out on a spot on the 2021 Junior greco world team. Hannah had previously made the 2019 Cadet greco world team.

Hannah led the way for Iowa college wrestlers in the Junior tournament. Behind him and the Grand View wrestlers, Wartburg had a strong showing, with four medalists:

  • David Papach, fifth at 77 kilos;
  • Zak Kozumplik, seventh at 77 kilos;
  • Matthew Doyle, eighth at 77 kilos;
  • and Eli Pannel, third at 130 kilos.

Additionally, a pair of Northern Iowa wrestlers also made the Junior greco podium. Dajun Johnson, a freshman, finished sixth at 77 kilos. RJ Weston, a Georgia native and 2021 signee for the Panthers, took eighth at 72 kilos.

Alex Thomsen gets ready before a match at 60 kg during the UWW Junior and Senior national Greco-Roman wrestling championships, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Thomsen leads Senior results

Behind Provisor, a handful of Iowa wrestlers made the podium in the Senior competition.

Alex Thomsen, formerly of Underwood and currently at Nebraska, finished third at 60 kilograms. Thomsen went 3-1 and reached the semifinals before battling back with a pair of consolation wins. He previously won a Senior greco national title last fall.

Behind him: Wartburg's Kyle Briggs took fifth at 82-kg; Coe College's Kaleb Reeves took fifth at 130-kg; Justin Koethe, a former standout at Iowa City West, took fifth at 72-kg; and Eddie Smith, a Loras grad, took seventh at 77-kg.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.