GYPSUM — Olympians Ben Provisor and Leigh Jaynes smiled as they looked around the Eagle Valley High School gym at more than 200 wrestlers and said, “Yeah, there may be an Olympian in there.”
Provisor and Jaynes were on hand for Saturday’s Bald Eagle Wrestling tournament. Before the wrestling started, they explained what it takes to get from the youth level to the Olympic level. It takes one to know one.
“You have to be talented, but the best people are the ones who show up and do the work,” Provisor said.
Like Savannah Martinez, 11. She’s from Leadville and wrestles with the Two Mile High wrestling club.
Or maybe Zachary Russell. He’s a 7-year-old with the Bald Eagle club and grapples in the 56.3 pound class. He said wrestling is like life.
“It’s fun!” Zachary said, then sprints away to play with his buddies, because as much energy as wrestling consumes, he has more.
He’s learned a little about life. For example, fun and fitness are good. A good half nelson and leg sweep are better.
Jay Eide is president of the Pikes Peak League, and they had three tournaments going last weekend: Laramie, Wyo.; Fort Carson; and Eagle. The local tournament hosted more than 200 wrestlers from 17 teams who squared off in more than 800 matches.
That’s a lot of sweaty kids who’ll sleep as their parents drive them home.
Kids are put together by age, weight and skill level, and they try to keep teammates from wrestling each other.
Kids compete all over the state, and if they do well enough, they get a piece of a puzzle depicting a part of Colorado. Do well enough in enough places and they get the whole state.
They come in teams, but they win and lose on their own.
“There’s no one else to blame,” Eide said. “If you win it’s because of you; If you lose it’s because of you.
Provisor and Jaynes are honest-to-Olympus Olympians. Provisor was a 2012 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling Team member. Jaynes is a member of the U.S. women’s World Team and a high school All-American.
They found wrestling, they found each other, had an adorable daughter, Evelyn Rose, and they live near the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where they train for whatever is next.
For them, whatever is next is the next Olympics. In the meantime, Provisor won a national title last week in New York City.
They’re like traveling wrestling evangelists proclaiming the gospel of grappling at youth tournaments all over the nation.
They do it because they love wrestling and it helps pay the bills. Wrestling really is like love: You have to have it, but you can’t live on it.
The top-ranked wrestlers in the U.S. get a stipend of $1,000 a month, Provisor said. The rest they have to pay for themselves.
He coaches with the Sons of Thunder wrestling team in Parker. They travel to tournaments almost every weekend, but that’ll go on the back burner for a while. Provisor is headed to Finland and Russia for a series of tournaments.
He can barely remember a time he wasn’t wrestling. He’s been in it since he was 6 years old.
Jaynes didn’t get involved until she was 17 and some guys from the wrestling team told her she’d never survive the wrestling room. They barely survived Jaynes.
“I was in all the bands in school and all the sports,” Jaynes said.
She was a female wrestling pioneer, and Missouri Valley College came calling with one of the nation’s first women’s wrestling teams. There are now 31 women’s programs at colleges across the nation, which makes it one of the fastest growing collegiate sports.
“Girls think there’s nothing beyond the youth levels,” Jaynes said, bouncing Evelyn Rose on her lap and waving at the room. “Their opportunities are growing all the time.”
Provisor’s dad was a keyboard player and singer for the rock band The Grassroots, so Evelyn Rose has music and wrestling in her DNA.
Wrestling arguably requires the highest level of dedication of any sport a kid can do. But it gets a bad rap from people who claim dieting is not healthy.
Her coach started weighing her as a teenager and still does. She and Provisor both cut weight going into the Olympics, but they did it smart, she said. They know exactly what they should weigh to be their best.
It’s not complicated, but you do have to forego the French fries.
“Don’t cut weight you don’t have to,” Jaynes said. “Stay hydrated, stick with good nutrition.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.