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South Doyle High School alum narrowly misses Tokyo Olympic Games

Harley Wheeler is returning to Knoxville after playing with Team USA around the world. He now hopes to make their 2024 Olympic rugby team.

KNOXVILLE, Knox County — When Harley Wheeler began playing rugby, he just wanted to be like his brother and his friends.

"I started taking the bus from the middle school after school to [South Doyle High] and practicing with the high school team," Wheeler said. "I was really small so I had to prove myself a lot of the time."

From there, he played collegiate rugby at Life University in Marietta, Georgia.

"It's surreal to be at this place and see where it all started to where I'm at now," Wheeler said. "[In college I] won national championships, got some all Americans, got some trophies and then got spotted from the USA team."

Now, he's traveled the world with Team USA — playing alongside the rugby players he's always looked up to.

Credit: WBIR

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"I was fan-girly. They're like, 'Don't treat me as anyone besides your teammate. I'm your brother, I'm your friend now,'" he said. 

Unfortunately, Wheeler didn't make the Tokyo Olympic games. However, he is not letting that get him down.

"Just to make my family proud and make my friends proud, make the South Knoxville community proud, that's huge to me," Wheeler said. "Anybody can make it. You just have to be willing and working hard just to do it."

Wheeler is continuing to stay in shape, in hopes of playing with Team USA in the 2024 summer games.

"I know there's more to come. This isn't the end of me, but it's a fight and it's a fight every day," he said. "[Making the Olympics] would be surreal. It would be every dream come true."

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