Basically, I used the vertical navigation to get child elements, but added the ParentItemTemplate and told the widget to include the parent in the list (in advanced). However, when I was actually ON that parent page, it didn't add the sfSel CSS to the anchor.
Here's what I was looking for, and as I mentioned, my stop-gap for this was to run a short JS line under the display of the navigation in the template. Note how "About" is bolded (using the sfSel class) when I'm actually on the About page. Seems like just an oversight in the code.