MEIGS COUNTY — Many people grow up watching their favorite game show and dreaming of being a contestant. For one Meigs County native, that dream came true.
Evan Struble grew up in Syracuse, Ohio, and often watched Jeopardy with his grandmother, the late Mary Lou Ihle.
“I’ve been a Jeopardy watcher for years and years,” Struble said. “In particular, I always spent my evenings with my grandmother, and she and I would play along with the show even when I was as young as nine or ten.”
Struble, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio and works at the State Library of Ohio, said when he was older, he decided to try becoming a contestant instead of a viewer.
“I received tons of support from my family and friends,” Struble said. “Everyone told me to go for it.”
Struble said there are many steps to getting on the show, the first of which is a test that becomes available online once a year.
“I signed up on the Jeopardy website to be notified when the test would be available. This January was my fourth attempt, so fourth time is a charm,” Struble said. “The test is fifty questions and timed. You have to know the answer quickly. The frustrating thing is you don’t know how you did because you only get contacted if you did well enough to get to the second phase.”
This second phase is a live interview and a mock game of Jeopardy. Struble said when he was contacted in July he traveled to Detroit, Michigan for the interview.
“After hearing nothing for about six months, I put it out of my mind and decided to try again next year. Then, I got a phone call asking me to come for an in-person interview in Detroit,” Struble said. “You played a mock version of Jeopardy against others who were auditioning. Then, there was an interview to test your personality and charisma. Finally, we had another 50-question test. This one was hand written, and we were only given eight seconds to write each answer.”
Struble said after the audition, his name was placed in a pool for 18 months. He could receive a call at any point during this time, or no call at all. Struble’s call came in late August asking him to be a contestant in an episode taped in September.
“When they called to tell me I was going to come out to California to tape, I screamed,” Struble said. “I didn’t think it was real. I thought there was a mistake. I immediately hung up the phone and called my parents. I was excited and nervous.”
Struble said he enjoyed the experience and that he felt that everyone involved in the process from producers, staff and Alex Trebek to the other contestants were very nice.
“It was so surreal to be in the studio and see the set you watched on TV, in my case, for 25 years,” Struble said. “You get there and think ‘Is this really happening?’ I didn’t realize I would be in such close quarters with the other twenty contestants scheduled to tape that day, but they kept us together and put us all in the same hotel. We became friends. The staff was just so nice to all of us.”
Struble’s episode aired Friday, December 13 and until then, he had to keep everything secret.
“Keeping quiet was probably the hardest part of the whole process,” Struble said. “You can’t talk about anything you saw. I had to watch five other shows being taped, and I couldn’t even talk about what color shirt Alex Trebek wore. It made Thanksgiving this year so awkward because all of my family members kept asking me about the results, and I kept having to put them off because I had to keep the secret even though I wanted to talk about it.”
“It was weird to watch,” Struble said. “I’ve never been on television. I had a viewing party and people were cheering when I got questions right and booing when Alex said I was wrong, and I just appreciate the support.”
Struble said he has been recognized by people just by being on the show.
“People come up to me and tell me they remember my face on Jeopardy and talk about how tough the board was that day,” Struble said. “One thing they warned us about on the set was ‘Facebook groupies’ who try to send friend requests to the contestants on the show, and just a few days after my episode aired, people were trying to send me friend requests.”
Struble said he came in third place, winning $1,000. He also said although he did not win, he has no reason to complain.
“I didn’t have the $1,000 dollars when I went out there, but now I do,” Struble said. “It’s an experience I’ll treasure for the rest of my life so I can’t complain about that.”
Struble, a 1998 graduate of Southern High School, is the son of Michael and Patricia Struble of Syracuse, Ohio, and grandson of Joseph and Martha Struble of Pomeroy, Ohio, and John Ihle of Racine, Ohio.