No Debate: WVU's Greatest Athlete Ever

A freak. It occurs to me midway through the conversation that I'm talking to a freak.

Not a Greg Arkin/Metamorphasis freak, but more a titanesque Jevon Kearse athletic blend. Greg Jones, WVU's senior wrestling sensation, has all those tools, and has used them to dominate his competition throughout his career.

This style of domination is reserved for Hodge and Uetake, Gable and Smith. Comparison critics argue that each won as many NCAA titles as they could. Freshman weren't eligible, and they maxed-it-out at three.

Sanderson, also a 184-pounder, comparisons aside, Greg Jones can – and dare write should – win three championships, but he had a shot at four.

He lost, they didn't, he doesn't belong with them, argument over.

Fine.

But there are lies, darn lies and statistics. You have to watch the man wrestle to grasp the greatness. He is 116-4, a two-time national champion. He has WVU's only undefeated season, has never lost an Eastern Wrestling League match and trails only his brother, Vertus, in NCAA Tournament wins. That, too, shall pass, and Greg will likely join Vertus as the only four-time EWL champions in WVU history.

His punch-the-clock ethic is balanced by a nobility, and balance isn't something one expects of a Ace of Spades-stylist like Jones. Lineups are shuffled and reshuffled around Greg the Great. Yet he's always the best, always the most-coveted prize.

"It puts a lot of pressure on him," West Virginia head coach Craig Turnbull said. "He's out there trying to get points and win by enough so the team gets more points. The other wrestlers aren't trying to win; they're trying not to give up points."

Grapple with that: Not trying to win. Just trying not to lose by too much. Teams hope to just minimize the impact, though brace might better term. Three team points is a given, one any coach will take.

Consider Hofstra. The Pride weighed two wrestlers in Jones' class. One would be thrown to the wolf, the other would bump to heavyweight in hopes of scoring a win to seal the match.

It never got that far, as the Mountaineers lost early matches that put the duel away for Hofstra.

"But what we were going to do," Turnbull said, "is give wrestling reporters something to write about."

Jones was moving up to heavyweight, putting his skill and speed versus the size and strength of Hofstra's heavyweight.

"We don't think (the heavyweight) could have gotten around on Jones," Turnbull explained. "It would have been fun to watch."

The last 41 times Jones has wrestled he has won. That's not simple consistency; that's dominance, and Hodge-like dominance at that. Jones wins with speed, with strength, with quickness, with knowledge and ability.

Freak.

I don't hold-hands with smooth, Sanderson-like history. You gotta have adversity, like an anticipated Jones bump to heavyweight, the sophomore loss in the NCAAs or the groin injury he's battling now. Achillies is no fun without the heel.

And so I ask what he wants fans to remember about him. The NCAA titles, the leadership, the perseverance perhaps.

"I was an international champion early in my career, so when I got to college it was a matter of reevaluating my goals, and setting a higher standard," he said. "I really want people to think that he worked hard and he got what he could out of every match."

Ask a cliché, get a cliché. Jones has indeed sucked the marrow out of collegiate wrestling, gotten everything he could out of it.

So because Jones can't say it, read this, revenue sports fans: Greg Jones is not just the greatest wrestler in West Virginia history. He is the greatest athlete ever at West Virginia University.

Jones is a sort-of once-in-a-lifetime, get'em-while-they're-hot greatness at a school where it's allegedly learned. Take your violent world of Sam Huff, your NBA logo, your gridiron Major.

Waive the wait. Jones is a first ballot WVU Hall of Famer, and also trumps the basketballer of same name.

The only real debate is which is the better Jones, Greg or assistant Zeke, an Olympic silver medalist, Good will Games gold medalist, four-time World Cup gold medalist and six-time U.S. Open National freestyle champion? Zeke never won an NCAA championship, however. Greg has two.

And like Huff, West and the now-secondary Jones, wrestlers onward will be judged by the Greg-standard.


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