Family Ties Abound In 2019 WVU Hall Induction
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The induction ceremony for the 29th West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame will be a family affair.
Wrestling brothers Greg and Vertus Jones go in along with women’s basketball star Meg Bulger, who joins her quarterback brother, Marc, and her sister and former teammate, Kate, in the Hall while former football tackle John Thornton will go in knowing that his son, Jalen, a freshman on this year’s team may be initiating a Hall of Fame career of his own.
Along with them the Hall of Fame ceremony will honor former WVU linebacker and coach Steve Dunlap, basketball star Darryl Prue, women’s soccer star Lisa Stoia, Dr. Stefan Thynell of the rifle team and Pete White, a two-sport athlete in men’s basketball and track and field.
But if you are looking for a theme it is the heavy emphasis on family and what it means to athletes, brothers and sisters offering competition and role models, teachers and inspirations that drive their siblings to greater heights.
Consider Vertus and Greg Jones, five-time NCAA wrestling finalists with Greg winning three national championships and older brother Vertus earning a pair of national runner-up trophies.
In addition, a third brother, Donnie, wrestled at WVU … with Vertus, as a graduate assistant, winding up coaching Greg to his first national title and Greg coaching Donnie as an assistant coach to Greg Turnbull.
Much of the success came from within the family itself.
“Growing up I was the oldest of the five,” Vertus said, noting there were also two sisters. “There was chaos at times but there was one common theme: we valued hard work and we liked to compete.
“We were all involved in sports. We had a lot of support.”
You look into almost any family that produces multiple athletes who reach high levels and you learn that there were similar values and a great deal of sibling competition … yet love.
“I was the oldest, so I wasn’t really competing with anyone,” Vertus said. “Greg was different, he had me and his oldest sister. She was very athletic as well, so he was following the two of us.
“Starting with our dad, there were high expectations with all of us. That extended out to all our aunts and uncles, grandfather. There were expectations that you were going give your best and do well.”
It was no different in the Bulger family. They had a father who had been a backup quarterback at Notre Dame and boy or girl, the competition was fierce, their driveway basketball games legendary in the neighborhood with all three going at it.
“We went at it pretty hard in our driveway,” Marc remembered. “You would think in the city it would be asphalt, but it was gravel and pretty terrible. We always joke to this day about how we beat up on each other pretty good. I do think it helped Kate and Meg. There were no gimmes, and there were hard fouls. There were some tough battles in that driveway.”
“Marc is the one out of the three boys who didn’t give us any slack at all. We played the same rules, the same fouls, the same physicalness. He was always the most serious with his little sisters,” Kate said. And two Hall of Famers grew out of that.
Marc was the role model in the Bulger family, just as Vertus was for the Jones family.
“I didn’t realize it until I went to college. Then I got to thinking, here I am, the first in our family to go to college and I am kind of a trend setter, a pioneer trying to set an example for them,” he said.
“I’d come home from college and have conversations with them, trying to be a coach, a fan, a supporter of them. As the oldest brother I wanted all my siblings to do way better than I did. People would come up to me and say ‘All your records are going to be broken by your brother’ and I’d tell them ‘I sure hope so.’
“I wanted to see them do well, do better than me. If I could set an example for that, that would be fantastic. Maybe I’ve done my job.”
And when Greg got to WVU and won his first of three national championships in Rochester, N.Y., Vertus was in his corner helping coach him and that meant more to him than you might imagine.
“Everything I have done in sports as far as competing, probably my proudest moment was coaching Greg to the title. That was the most rewarding experience I’ve had,” Vertus says.
Donnie never reached those heights, but Greg cherishes having had the opportunity to coach him.
“It was great coaching him. It’s something we’ll even have a deeper passion and understanding for as we get older and look back on it, the memories and experiences we shared.”