Greg Jones: All In The Family
By Tim Goodenow, WVU Sports Communications
For West Virginia University's Greg Jones, or the entire Jones family for that matter, success is nothing new when it comes to athletics.
Greg is a two-time national champion wrestler. His older brother Vertus is a three-time All-American wrestler for WVU. His younger brother Donnie has as many high school wrestling titles as his brothers combined. And it doesn't stop there.
Marita, Greg's older sister, was a standout volleyball player at Eastern Kentucky University. His younger sister Vannessa followed in her sister's footsteps and is a sophomore on the current EKU volleyball team.
Yes, there are five Jones in all. And all five excelling at sports they love.
Responsible for this family of stars are Vertus and Emily Jones. The proud parents raised their children in Slickville, Pa., a small rural town outside of Pittsburgh.
"I think you can attribute the Jones kids' ability to recognize the value of hard work back to their parents," says WVU head coach Craig Turnbull. "That bar was set very high by their parents. A tremendous amount of the success goes back to the core values that they learned as a family."
Growing up in a crowded Pennsylvania home was something Greg witnessed at an early age. Besides his family of seven, Greg's father started up the Jones Wrestling Club out of their basement.
"I believe it was age three when I first started wrestling," says Greg. "My dad gathered a group of kids in the area who had an interest in wrestling. The next night, they all showed up to my mom's surprise."
WVU's 184-pounder understands the important role his father played as coach.
"Having my dad as a coach was critical to the development of my career," adds Greg. "My dad was a little tough on Vertus and I before mellowing out on Donnie. I could not have accomplished as much as I have without the support of my parents."
Greg's work ethic was derived from his dad, a hard working owner of a sanitation company. And his mother balanced work at a medical supplies company and delivering her kids to and from practices.
"Parenting is a tough task, especially when there are five of us running around," explains Greg. "My parents did a great job of raising us. They always found a way to get things done to benefit us kids. We owe them a lot.
"Sports weren't everything to my parents though. In fact, it's rarely a conversation at the dinner table. But they knew that an athletic scholarship presented an opportunity to get an education and provide a learning experience of being on your own."
That love and support is paying dividends for the Jones children. Vertus became the Mountaineers' first three-time All-American with his second-place finish at the 2000 NCAA Championships. He tallied a 95-21 record in four seasons and now serves as a teacher and coach at North Hills High School.
After a solid prep career at Greensburg Salem High School, Greg opted to follow Vertus to West Virginia. In 2002, Greg became just the 10th freshman in NCAA history to win a national championship.
"Vertus was a great role model for me," says Greg. "We are five years apart so it's difficult for us to have wrestled together growing up. As I came here, Vertus created an advantage for me coming in as a young freshman and having the opportunity to work with an All-American wrestler."
"It started with Vertus and was then passed down to Greg who was fortunate to see Vertus perform," agrees Turnbull. "It gave Greg a blueprint of what it takes to be successful at the major division one level. It made it much more real and tangible to Greg and I think in return he is doing that to Donnie."
Having won the 2002 national title at 174 pounds as a freshman, Greg entered his sophomore NCAA tournament riding a 46-match win streak and the prohibitive favorite to repeat. However, he was upset in the opening round and failed to earn All-America honors.
"It motivated me to get back there," admitted Greg. "I didn't have a good tournament and it was a matter of refocusing and keeping my mind on the task at hand."
He maintained that focus and drive through the off-season and returned to the mat to pound on his opponents in the quest for perfection. Jones remained unbeaten at 26-0 in taking home his second national title.
Just a few weeks earlier, brother Donnie captured his second Pennsylvania state wrestling title. The Jones became only the fourth family in the history of PIAA to have three brothers capture state titles.
Entering his senior season, Greg looks to become just the 39th wrestler in the history of NCAA to win three crowns. He can also join Vertus and become one of just four wrestlers in Eastern Wrestling League history to win four league titles.
"It is really a neat thing to observe on the outside of how their family works," says Turnbull. "They have a tremendous drive to excel and have a clear understanding of the work ethic that is needed for success. It's sort of a pride thing now. They are focused on helping each other develop into the best athlete and person they can be. It has been an outstanding family to have involved in our program in all respects."
Now in his final season as a Mountaineer, he hopes to have his hand raised at center mat, one more time in St. Louis. As that final buzzer sounds, it will be Greg Jones smiling and pointing to his family in the stands. That is where is starts with the Jones family. It's all in the family.
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