Ari Michelson
May 20, 2015 02:15 AM

Third place is the equivalent of winning for Noah Galloway.

Though he and partner Sharna Burgess didn’t take home the Mirrorball Trophy Tuesday on Dancing with the Stars, the Army vet-turned-personal trainer felt triumphant during Tuesday’s 20th season finale that crowned Rumer Willis the victor and Riker Lynch the runner-up.

“Considering I thought I would be the first or second to go home [on the show] and I made it to third place, I’m really proud,” Galloway told PEOPLE after the finale. “Rumer and Riker are incredible dancers. It felt good to work with Sharna and choreograph these dances that told a story and touched people in a different way. And the fact that we got to go all the away to the finals and do that freestyle dance? I mean, I couldn’t have asked for more.”

An old injury in his right wrist threatened to spoil the duo’s final lifts on Tuesday, but Galloway convinced Burgess that he could hoist her for a final time.

“I convinced her to leave it in there,” he told PEOPLE. “She trusted me.”

Now that DWTS is over, Galloway has two new goals he’d like to achieve besides marrying his fiancée Jamie Boyd – mastering the use of a new motorcycle that Harley-Davidson is about to custom design for him once he returns home to Birmingham, Alabama; and getting back into the pages of a very special issue of PEOPLE.

“How about sexiest man?” he said. “That’s when I’ll feel like a winner.”

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