Athletic Hall-of Fame Class honored at Homecoming Football Game
MCKENZIE, Tenn. – The Bethel Athletic Department and the University takes great pride in the Athletic Hall-of-Fame. Each October during Homecoming Week the University honors individuals and teams who have excelled in various fashions as athletes, teams, coaches, staff and contributors. Due to Covid-19 the Hall-of-Fame recognitions took place March, 26, 2021 at Homecoming. The Wildcats played host to MSC foe UPike The class marked the 40th class to be inducted.
In October, 2019 the athletic department honored three former athletic greats, two contributors and one team with inductions into the prestigious hall. With the inductions, 96 people and four teams have been enshrined.
This year the school inducted one team, three athletes and one contributor. Due to Covid protocols there will be no banquet until the fall of 2021.
Here is a look at the 2020 Athletic Hall-of Fame Class:
1991 Men’s Golf Team
The team holds the distinction of being the first team in school history to ever compete in a national tournament. They compiled a record of 36 wins and 3 losses. They came in second at the Tennessee Intercollegiate Championship and second at TSAC Conference Tournament.
The squad competed at the District 24 tournament where they trailed by 12 strokes after the first nine holes. With a berth to the national tournament on the line, they rallied and forced a playoff with a brilliant effort on the back nine and captured the win and headed to Oklahoma City.
The team was coached by Bethel Hall-of-Famer Jerry Wilcoxson. Team members included, Wayne Lawson, John Austin, Trent Frizzell, Adam Davis, (Bethel HOF member) and Troy Hendrickson.
Austin, current golf coach at Bethel, commented, “It is an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with an amazing team. In the spring of 1991, we felt we were good enough to make the national tournament and we proved it to ourselves by doing so. I played with a lot of good players during my time at Bethel. This team was a special group of men who accomplished what we set out to do.”
Patience Opara played women’s soccer for the Lady Wildcats from 2001-2003. She was 1st team all-conference each season. Opara was also named to the all-region team each season. The three-year captain was named conference MVP each year. She is the only defender in school history to receive these awards.
In 2003 Opara was named 1st team All-American, becoming the first female athlete at the school to ever garner that award. She was named to the national all-tournament team which was also the first time to happen in school history. She was a defender but scored 48 goals in her career.
Opara was named a 2003-2004 Academic All-American. She was the first woman to have her jersey retired in women’s soccer at Bethel. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Bethel in 2010. Her sister, Ugochi Opara, was also a member of the women’s soccer team and a 2009 graduate of Bethel.
Opara was a member of the Nigerian National team. She is originally from Umuanuma Nguru, Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria. Opara currently resides in Washington, D.C. She is happily married with four children: Winston 15, Beltran 13, Olivia 9, and Joseph, two months. Her husband, Victor Onyeoziri, is a net branch owner of a large mortgage company in Silver Springs, Maryland.
Opara said, “It is an honor and exciting to be included as an inductee into the 2021 Bethel Hall-of-Fame.”
Ron Puckett played men’s basketball from 1992-1996 for the Wildcats. The squad was coached by Mike Nienaber. Puckett is still prominent in the Bethel record book.
Single game records:
Most Free Throws made in a game #6 (17/18)
Most 3point FG made in a game #5 (8/11)
Single season records:
Most FT Made #18 140/169
Most 3pt FG made #3, (108/242) #4, (107/263) and #7 (92/235)
Highest FT% #12 (83.8%)
3pt FG % #5 (44.6%)
Steals #12 (62)
Points #12 (1679),
3PT FG Made #2 (341/802),
3pt FG % #3 (42.5%)
Rebounds #13 (623) (as a guard)
Steals # 4 (200)
Along with his exploits on the court, Puckett was named an NAIA Academic All American.
Ron and his wife, Amy Cook (also a Bethel graduate) reside in Centerville, Tennessee. They are the parents of six children, Isaiah, a freshman in college; Addie-Gene, a sophomore in high school; Elisha, an 8th grader; Timothy, a 7th grader, Rachel, a fourth grader, and Cookie a 2nd grader. Ron is currently the assistant principal at Hickman County Middle School and has served as an educator for over twenty years as a coach, teacher and administrator in West and Middle Tennessee. He also has been an elected county commissioner for four years in Hickman County.
Puckett spoke about the honor, “I cherish the honor of playing basketball at Bethel University. The life lessons I learned from my coaches and teammates have influenced the person I am today and the career path I chose. The relationships with the Bethel faculty, the friendships with Bethel students and the support of the community made my career at Bethel one of the more special times in my life.”
Ellen Argo played women’s basketball at Bethel from1986- 1990. Argo remains prominent in the Lady Wildcat record book.
Individual Season Record:
12th Field Goals Made (196) 1988-89
13th Pts per Game (18.7) 1988-89
12th 1157 points
11th 531 Rebounds
12th 3pt Field Goal % 34.2%
9th Free Throw % 76.6 (177/231)
Argo also served as coach of the program in 1996-1997.
Argo currently lives in Clarksville, Tennessee. She is a Pediatric Physical Therapist there and also an instructor in the Physical Therapy program at Belmont University.
Argo said, “I am honored and grateful to be inducted into the Bethel University Wildcats Athletic Hall of Fame. As I was growing up, Bethel University was a part of my life before I wore the Wildcat purple. To be able to represent Bethel as an athlete was a privilege. I value my Bethel experience for how the people and events affected my life. Special appreciation and love go to my family, especially my parents, (both Bethel alumni) Catherine and “Gofer” Argo, for their love, guidance and support. Susan Argo Reynolds, provided invaluable advice and encouragement as only a sister can. There’s not enough space or time to thank the coaches, teammates, professors, and friends from the Bethel community who contributed to my success as an athlete and a person. I can’t acknowledge any success I had without thanking the late Buddy Wiggleton. The blend of humor, toughness, and love that he used brought out the best in me.”
Deb Thompson (contributor)
Dr. Deb Thompson began her career at Bethel in 1982. She coached tennis, volleyball and basketball at the school. Thompson was a constant supporter of the school and a regular face at games, no matter what the sport. She contributed financially every year until her retirement in 2017.
In March of 2016 she was awarded “Faculty Emeritus.” Thompson passed away in March, 2019. As required by her will, her estate left a large (more than $100,000) donation to the athletic department. Along with her support of Bethel athletics, Dr. Deb loved the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Bethel’s Faculty Athletic Representative, Missy Vaughn commented, “Deb (Dr. T) taught at Bethel since 1982 except for a couple of years when she took a small break to live at the beach. I was hired at Bethel to teach her classes. Notice, I didn’t say take her place because no one could ever do that. Lucky for me when she returned, Bethel had grown enough that I got to stay. We shared a love of golf, college football (well all sports), Bethel University, casinos (video poker queens we were) and the value of friendship. We both liked “collecting memories” not things. We had the same fashion since-comfort is the only thing that matters. She was a character. I have reflected numerous times, the things she taught me about teaching, staying true to yourself and living the life you want to live. We had a lot of differences too but we still loved each other. When she retired a few years ago our department established the Dr. T Award in Physical Education for Academic Excellence. She was a scholar. I miss my friend and so pleased she is being recognized with this great honor.”
Congratulations to each of these Bethel icons.