Thao Tran

Cal Poly students won thousands of dollars after appearing on television’s hit game show “Wheel of Fortune.”

Twenty-year-old business finance and accounting senior Mike Matzke won $17,700 and a cruise to the Caribbean valued at $4,448 after an appearance on Wheel of Fortune several months ago.

Theatre senior Chris Elliott, 21, won $18,800 and biological sciences graduate, Leslie Beekman reeled in more than $19,800 in cash and prizes.

Matzke appeared on the episode that aired Sept. 16, entitled the “Wheel Around the World Week.” He plans to go on the trip to the Caribbean after his birthday in December.

Beekman appeared on the episode of Wheel of Fortune during the “Live Like a Star Week” on Oct. 13.

Elliott will appear on “Wheel of Fortune” on Jan. 19.

“It was a great opportunity,” Elliott said. “There was no pressure involved. It was just a matter of how much free money you can win.”

The three contestants attended the auditions for the show last spring after the Wheelmobile, a mock-style “Wheel of Fortune,” made a stop at the Cal Poly Recreation Center.

“There were fliers around school that said ‘Wheel of Fortune’ was coming,” Matzke said. “So, three friends and I from the improv team decided it would be fun to go.”

Matzke and Elliott are both members of “Smile and Nod,” the Cal Poly improv team and tried out for the show.

Approximately 50 students and 50 other contestants made the first cut and were invited to attend a second audition at the Embassy Suites on Madonna Road.

“The puzzle was projected on a PowerPoint slide at the hotel,” Matzke said. “And people took turns solving puzzles.”

After making the third cut, the contestants were requested to appear at Sony Studios in Culver City where six game shows were filmed in one day.

Before appearing on the show, Matzke said he trained himself to solve the puzzles.

“To be truthful, I haven’t watched the show in a while so I immediately bought the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ video game and played Scrabble to train,” Matzke said.

Elliott describes being on the show as “surreal” and “fantastic,” with memories of being able to talk to the game show host Pat Sajak as one of the day’s highlights.

“I stood in the first booth, so I got to talk to Pat the whole time,” Elliott said.

According to a press release, more than 1 million contestants tried out for the show during the Wheelmobile tour; 500 contenders were selectively chosen to participate, including Matzke, Elliott and Beekman.

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