WLU Hall of Fame To Welcome Inductees
WEST LIBERTY – The West Liberty University Athletic Hall of Fame will play host to its 32nd annual induction ceremony on Sept. 15 at the University’s Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex.
This year’s class includes Steve Gilson (track and field), Branden Hinkle (wrestling/men’s tennis), Mark Schwertfeger (baseball), Mike Young (men’s tennis/coaching) and the 1977 national championship bowling team.
The group will be guests of honor at a social gathering in the lobby of the University’s Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex from 8:30-9 a.m. A formal induction ceremony and breakfast will follow at 9 a.m. in the R. Emmett Boyle Conference Center at the ASRC.
The event is open to the public with tickets priced at $10. Reservations can be made by calling Athletic Secretary Robin Brunner at (304) 336-8046.
The inductees will be recognized on the field at halftime of that afternoon’s home football game against West Virginia Wesleyan. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Following are information capsules for this year’s honorees:
Track and Field
One of the shining stars of the West Liberty track and field program during the mid-1970s, Steve Gilson made his mark at the conference and national level.
A four-year letterman and two-year co-captain who never missed a practice or meet throughout his West Liberty career, Gilson earned All-West Virginia Conference honors in each of his four seasons.
A two-time WVIAC champion in the 220-yard dash, Gilson set the school record in the 220-yard event and also ran a leg on the school’s record-setting 440-yard relay unit.
The 1974 WVIAC Co-Track Athlete of the Year, he led the Hilltoppers to the 1974 conference title and qualified for the 1974 NAIA National Championship meet in the 220-yard dash.
After graduation, he worked in the local area for several years and served as head coach for the West Liberty cross country team during the 1991 season.
Branden Hinkle was a rare two-sport champion during his time at West Liberty and the multi-talented athlete has carved out a professional career in a third sport after graduation.
Hinkle was an All-Ohio wrestler and All-Conference tennis standout at Jefferson (Ohio) Area High School during the early 1990s and continued to excel in both sports at West Liberty.
A three-time NAIA All-America wrestler, Branden was the 1995 NAIA national champion at 190 pounds and earned runner-up honors at 190 pounds as a senior in 1996. Hinkle also won a WVIAC tennis championship in 1995.
Hinkle continued to wrestle after graduation, earning U.S. national freestyle All-America honors and winning two Northeastern U.S. Freestyle titles before turning to mixed martial arts.
The former Hilltopper has fought all over the world during his lengthy pro career, winning the Korean heavyweight title and the World Extreme Fighting heavyweight crown along with the Reality Super Fighting light-heavy championship.
A hard-throwing hurler who also swung a big stick, Mark Schwertfeger played a big role in West Liberty’s baseball dominance during the mid-1970s.
An all-state standout at Brooke High School, Schwertfeger played his last three seasons (1976-78) at West Liberty after starting out at Mercer (Ga.) University.
He led West Liberty on the mound in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched every year as the Hilltoppers compiled a sparkling 45-7 record during his career. He also led the team in several offensive categories each season, hitting .362 with 5 home runs as a senior.
The two-time All-WVIAC selection helped West Liberty to a pair of conference titles and led the Hilltoppers on back-to-back trips to the NAIA Area 7 tournament.
After graduation, he spent one season with the Class A Boise (Ida.) Buckskins before returning home to begin his teaching and coaching career.
Now retired after 33 years with Brooke County Schools, Schwertfeger keeps busy as an assistant baseball coach at Brooke and remains active on the diamond with the Chester Old-Timers in the Youngstown (Ohio) 50-Over Baseball League.
A four-year letterman on Coach Edgar Martin’s West Liberty tennis team (1967-71), Mike Young also helped lay the foundation for WL’s highly-regarded athletic training program before embarking on a remarkable high school coaching career.
During his time on the hilltop, the Wheeling Central Catholic graduate served as athletic trainer for all sports in the Student Trainer program initiated by Martin, Bob Roe and Dr. Al Blatnik.
After graduation, he had a long and successful career as a teacher, coach and trainer at St. Clairsville High School.
Young won two OVAC tennis titles and was a two-time District Football Coach of the Year selection, compiling a 52-41 record with six ECOL crowns and two OVAC championships.
He moved to Wheeling Central as an assistant football coach in 1997, helping the Maroon Knights to three state titles before taking the head coaching reins in 2005.
Young’s Central teams have gone 80-15 with five state titles and a state record-tying 36-game win streak. He was the 2007 Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Man of the Year and the 2012 OVAC Coach of the Year.
1977 BOWLING TEAM
Coach Sam Jones’ powerful 1977 West Liberty bowling team staked its claim as the nation’s top college squad by sweeping the NAIA national title and the United States Bowling Congress team championship.
Members of the legendary squad included Doug Tuskey, Mike Zeno, Brad Winwood, Bruce Staley, Rich Frey and Guy Pryor.
Led by Tuskey the Hilltoppers began their historic run with a dominant victory in the WVIAC Championships at Parkersburg.