Chuck Aoki

Chuck Aoki

Athlete Class of 2009

Chuck Aoki began his athletic career in 1997, when he first started playing wheelchair basketball at Courage Center (now Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute). He continued playing basketball through his time at Southwest, which culminated in winning back to back National Championships for the Jr. Rolling Timberwolves in 2008 and 2009, his graduation year. It was during the summer before his junior year, however, that he began playing the sport in which he would find the most success , wheelchair rugby.

Chuck became interested in playing wheelchair rugby in 2005, after seeing the documentary "Murderball", which told the story of the 2004 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team. After going back and forth with his parents for months, Chuck finally convinced them to let him attend a practice, again at Courage Center. After one practice, he was hooked. Chuck immediately began playing with the Minnesota team in the 2007-2008 season, and led them to the Division II National Championship game, where they lost to a far more experienced San Diego Sharp team. The next season, however, Chuck and the Minnesota North Stars (now Steelheads), made it back to the Division II Championship game and won, giving Chuck his first national championship in wheelchair rugby, where he was also named the Division II MVP.

It was during this 2008-2009 year that Chuck also made his first U.S. national team for wheelchair rugby. At age 17, Chuck was the second-youngest player to ever make a U.S. wheelchair rugby national team. His first competition for the U.S. was the 2009 American Zonal Championships, where he helped lead the U.S. to a gold medal. The following year, in 2010, Chuck helped the U.S. earn the World Wheelchair Rugby Championship. After helping the team to earn another gold medal at the 2011 American Zonals, Chuck made his first Paralympic team in 2012, where he played a key role in helping the U.S. team earn a bronze medal. To date, Chuck has been a member of the team from 2009-2019, and was co-captain of the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team, a team which earned a silver medal after a double-overtime loss to Australia, and is hoping to be selected to the 2020 Paralympic Team, and to lead the U.S. back to the top of the podium.

Domestically, Chuck has won two Division I National Championships to go with his Division II National title, along with multiple MVP awards, and was named the United States Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) Player of the Year in 2011. His club career has gone from Minnesota, to Tucson, AZ from 2009-2012, then back to Minnesota from 2013-2018, and he has lived in Denver, CO, since 2018, where he is currently working on his PhD in International Relations and Comparative Politics at the University of Denver, while training for the 2020 Paralympics.