Credit: Jake Douglas | Courtesy

Graphic communication junior Jake Douglas had an hour to kill between classes. He went to the University Union in a state of boredom — and then spotted the Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile in Chumash Auditorium.

Douglas went to investigate and was swept into a mock audition. Moving on to another round of auditions in Paso Robles, Douglas played six rounds of mock games with about 100 players until he was one of the last 15 standing.

“They were like, ‘Hey, we’ll e-mail you when you’re going to be on the show,’” Douglas said.

Two years later, Douglas received an email from Wheel of Fortune confirming his appearance on a “college edition” episode. The taping was scheduled for Feb. 18, 2019.

After a full day of classes, Douglas headed down to Los Angeles with two friends and settled into a hotel. The next morning, they hopped on a shuttle filled with other college students and left for Sony Studios. The contestants were consulted by lawyers about the rules and then allowed an on-stage rehearsal where they could practice spinning the wheel.

“The wheel is pretty heavy, actually,” Douglas said. “In the rehearsal parts, they had us spin the wheel probably 20 times each, just like, ‘Alright no, you need to follow through on that. We need a good spin each time.’ It was intense.”

In total, 20 college students came for taping, with two as backups. Six consecutive episodes were filmed in front of a live audience.

“They make everything look so much bigger than it actually is,” Douglas said. “It was really fun. It was exciting — really nerve-wracking — being up there. Pat Sajak is actually as charismatic as he seems on TV, just naturally. He’s a really nice, funny, genuine person. Vanna White? Also awesome.”

The show will air March 18, 2019 at 7 p.m., allowing the country — and Cal Poly community — to find out whether or not Douglas won. 

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, like, I don’t think I’ll ever go do something like that again,” Douglas said. “It’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”

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