Inductees thrive in life after Eagles sports

Photo by: Henoc Kivuye

 

Oklahoma Christian University held a banquet to recognize past athletes that achieved the honor of being named to the Hall of Fame. The six recipients represented the best in their sport at the time of their participation. While these athletes received many awards during their time at Oklahoma Christian, this award placed them amongst 41 legendary athletes and coaches before them, with an honor that will forever remain exemplary.

Two recipients came from the men’s basketball program: Mike Gipson and Jarred Merrill.

Gipson, from Jonesboro Ark., played for the Eagles from 1962-1966. He was a standout in every aspect of the game. By his senior year he averaged a double-double per game, with 20.6 points and 10.6 rebounds. Until 1980, he also held the high for career points with 1,472. After many years, he still remains in the top 20 for that category.

Aside from playing basketball for the Eagles, Gipson also participated on the baseball team.

After graduating from Oklahoma Christian, Gipson and his wife, Peggy, taught for four years at a Christian high school in Arkansas. After leaving Crowley’s Ridge Christian High School, they both attended graduate school at Arkansas State. They then moved back to Oklahoma and both obtained their Ph.D.’s, Mike at Oklahoma University and Peggy at Oklahoma State University. In 1970 the Gipsons returned to Oklahoma Christian, this time as professors. Peggy taught in the English department, and Mike taught in the Biology department until 2010.

The Gipsons have three daughters and three grandsons. Their twin daughters, Jenny and Mandy, both completed the biology program at Oklahoma Christian and now both have jobs in DNA sequencing technology.

Merrill, from Abilene, Texas, reigns as Oklahoma Christian’s top post in program history. He holds the title of leading career scorer with 2,189 points, along with being second in career rebounding with 1,120.

Additionally, he also holds the record for single season scoring with 821 points and career field goals attempted with 1,487. Merrill was known for not only getting to the free-throw line, but also capitalizing when there. He holds the record for career free throws made and attempted, going 650-795. He also holds the record for season free throws made and attempted, 259-311.

Merrill was a standout for both the Eagles and the NAIA and Sooner Athletic Conference. He received NAIA player of the week twice during his time at Oklahoma Christian and NAIA player of the year in 2005. He was also named to the NAIA All-America first-team twice.

After graduating, Merrill went on to play basketball professionally overseas in Spain, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Bahrain, Lebanon and South Korea. He also competed in the U.S. in the NBA Development League, American Basketball Association and the United States Basketball League.

He and his wife Candace have a young daughter. He currently serves as assistant basketball coach at Bishop McGuiness High School in Oklahoma City, Okla.

A former basketball standout that came right after Merrill,  Jason Taylor, saw Merrill as a mentor.

“The way he could step out, post up and be a threat on any area of the court was exciting to watch,” Taylor said. “He was a hard worker, and I could tell while going to Cage Camp that he was well respected with not only his ability, but the way he put in work throughout the summer. He was someone I wanted to model my game after. Coach Hays set the bar high for me and gave me big shoes to fill by giving me his number, 32, so I had no choice but to learn from him and try to represent for the number 32.”

Oklahoma Christian’s Lady Eagles basketball team also added a member to the hall of the fame: former player Sarah Reese. Reese, from Owasso, Okla., transferred to Oklahoma Christian from Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. Once here, she immediately started setting records for the Lady Eagles and became a standout in the Sooner Athletic Conference.

She received SAC newcomer of the year in 2000 and went on to make the SAC first-team each year for the remainder of her eligibility. From 2000-2002, Reese received All-America third-team, second-team and first-team honors.

Reese holds the Oklahoma Christian record for rebounds in a season and career rebounding average at 395 and 10.5 respectively. Reese is sixth on the career-scoring list with 1,707 and fifth in single-season scoring with 661 and career rebounding with 996.

After graduation, Reese went on to teach and coach in Rockwall, Texas and at Carl Albert Middle School. She married former Southern Nazarene University basketball player, Curt Tyszko. She later decided to attend Physician Assistant School at Oklahoma University and now works as an emergency room physician’s assistant in the Dallas Metroplex.

The Tyszkos have two toddler sons, Cade and Chase. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cooking, working out and spending time with her kids and husband.

Gabriella Lancman, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, made her mark as an Oklahoma Christian women’s tennis legend from 1998-2001. She helped start what would soon be an expectation for the women’s tennis team: trips to the NAIA national tournament.

Lancman received NAIA All-America first-team honors in 1998, 1999 and 2000. She received All-America second-team in 2001. She also was the winner of the Tennis magazine/Intercollegiate Tennis Association NAIA Arthur Ashe Award for Sportsmanship and Leadership in 2001. She received the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America third-team in 2000 and first-team in 2001.

After graduation, Lancman moved to Lake Mary, Fla. to work for a banking software company. She kept that job for five years while at the same time working to obtain her master’s degree. In 2006, she got a job with a different banking software company as a project manager and moved to Miami, Fla., although her job has her traveling and living all around the globe.

Lancman was both an excellent athlete and an outstanding student. She worked hard as a business major and graduated with a 4.0. She also helped out as an accounting mentor in the marketing department and even went as a member of the Oklahoma Christian team to a business competition in San Diego, Calif. Lancman credits much of her success to head tennis coach Kris Miller.

“Kris Miller opened many doors for me at OC and put all his confidence in me,” Lancman said. “As he got to know me, he kept challenging me and providing me with opportunities to excel, to develop leadership skills, to improve my game and overall to grow. He was very special to me, and I am very appreciative.”

Lancman described her family at Oklahoma Christian as a select group of professors and advisors who helped her during her time as a student. She named Robin Miller, Ken Miller, Bobbie Walker and Stan and Betty Green as some of her biggest supporters throughout her college years.

Damon Sims, an Oklahoma Christian men’s track standout, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame on Feb. 8. He was, and still is, one of the best sprinters Oklahoma Christian has ever had. To this day he still holds the Oklahoma Christian records for the indoor 200 meter with a time of 21.72 seconds, the indoor 400 meter at 48.09 seconds and the outdoor 200 meter with a time of 20.85 seconds.

“It’s great to see a track and field athlete be inducted into the hall of fame,” junior track athlete Nate Donley said. “It gives the current team something to take pride in, and we all feel fortunate to be able to compete at OC, a school that has had great track and field athletes.”

Besides being a star in the school record books, Sims was also a six-time All-America honoree, along with being an NAIA national champion in the outdoor 200 meters. He also finished in the top six in the 100, 200 and 400 in his years as an Oklahoma Christian sprinter.

After college, Sims took a job as a programmer at Fleming Foods for three months before he accepted a job with the FBI, where he has remained ever since. He still resides in Edmond, where he helps coach his three children in their respective sports. He enjoys watching any and all sporting events and fishing in his spare time.

Bruno Buccolo, the first member to be inducted for men’s golf, was a standout for the Eagles. A four-time first-team All-American, Buccolo recorded 10 tournament wins during his golf career. He was also a four-time PING All-American, and in 2008 was named as one of the top 20 collegiate golfers in the U.S., the All-Nicklaus team.

Buccolo shined in the classroom as much as he shined on the course. He was a three-time NAIA Scholar-Athlete and a second-team Capital One Academic All-American in 2008. He was also a three-time Academic All-District selection by CoSIDA.

“It was always a pleasure to have Bruno stop by my office for a visit,” athletic department administrative assistant Julie Anderson said. “Although one of the most prominent athletes in the men’s golf program, he was also humble and very much a team player. He put a lot of effort into his studies, and appreciated the opportunity he was given to earn a degree. Bruno certainly deserved to be recognized as the first golfer in the OC Athletic Hall of Fame.”

After graduating, Buccolo played golf professionally on mini tours from 2009-2011 but didn not like the lifestyle and so decided he wanted to spend less time on the road and more time with his new family. He and his wife Sabrina have a young son, Benjamin.

Buccolo, originally from Tandill, Argentina, now lives in Oklahoma City, Okla. He graduated with a bachelor’s in business and now works for Midland Financial as an assistant manager for an investor-reporting group. Although he still enjoys recreational golfing, he says his favorite weekend activity is hanging with his family.

Each of the six inducted athletes continue to succeed in life after Oklahoma Christian, but now will always be remembered for their time spent as Eagles.

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