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Harley Wheeler Named 2018-19 Scholz Award Winner

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Harley Wheeler Named 2018-19 Scholz Award Winner

David Barpal photo.

Life University center Harley Wheeler, newly-minted D1A champion, has won the Rudy Scholz Award as the top men’s college player of 2018-19.

Wheeler, who burst onto the college scene last fall with three tries in the D1A final and three tries for the All Americans in a game later that summer, was a standout for South Doyle HS in Tennessee before joining Life University. This year he expanded his role with the team, moving from wing to center, and taking more of a leadership position within the team.

Wheeler has already spent time training with the USA sevens team, and toured with the USA Falcons. 

An enormously physical player with a high work rate, Wheeler has pace, but can also survive in tight quarters in physical play. He helped lead Life University to a second-straight D1A championship this past weekend.

Wheeler's ability to contribute in multiple ways around the field is what won him the award.

Emotional after the D1A final, Wheeler said the effort was a complete team approach. 

"It was one of the more physical games we've had all year ... but we were ready for it. We had some injuries but we just kept grinding through it," said Wheeler. Asked how much he enjoys playing for Life, he said simply, "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

The Rudy Scholz Award is named for Rudy Scholz, who won gold medals for the USA in rugby in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Summer Games. Scholz, a scrumhalf, played rugby at Santa Clara, suiting up for the Broncos in 1913. He played his last rugby game in 1979. Scholz was also a success in private life, pursuing a long and highly-respected legal career.

The award itself is chosen through a combination of a panel of experts, fan voting, and votes from teams and coaches around the USA.

The panel, with input from fans, names a nominee group. Fans and teams (either their coaches or their officers) vote in two separate polls to whittle the nominees down to a group of finalists.

Then the panel votes for the winner.

“Every year it's tough but this year I think there were many candidates who could have won this award,” said Alex Goff, Senior Editor of FloRugby and Editor of GoffRugbyReport. “Harley's performances in the most important games of the season, I think, put him over the top."

In addition to Wheeler, the five finalists for the Scholz Award were: Aaron Matthews (Saint Mary's), Tanner Pope (Arkansas State), Eamonn Matthews (St. Bonaventure), and Matt Rogers (Arizona).

The MA Sorensen Award and Rudy Scholz Award were begun in the 2015-16 season by the Washington Athletic Club of Seattle, WA. Senior VP of Athletics, Special Projects & Community Partners, Wayne Milner, spearheaded the effort, working with Goff’s help to create awards for the best college players in the country.

The awards will be presented in person at the gala event at the WAC on June 8. This is a well-attended event that has seen many prominent national team players from the past and the present come to recognize the best in college rugby.

Previous Scholz Award Winners

2016: Dylan Audsley, Saint Mary's

2017: Bryce Campbell, Indiana

2018: Connor McNerney, Navy