From Couch to Contestant

After having little trouble solving Wheel of Fortune’s puzzles at home, Duke PRMO employee gets shot as contestant

PRMO Financial Analyst Evan Schroedel holds the name tag from his appearance on Wheel of Fortune.
PRMO Financial Analyst Evan Schroedel holds the name tag from his appearance on Wheel of Fortune.

Evan Schroedel can tell you just about everything you’d want to know about being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune.

The wheel is smaller than it looks on TV. It’s heavier than you’d think, too.

Hostess Vanna White greets contestants backstage before the show, but you don’t meet host Pat Sajak until the cameras roll.Evan Schroedel during his Wheel of Fortune appearance.

But ask how Schroedel, 31, how he fared when he traveled to California to appear on the show last month and he’s suddenly stingy with the details.

“Everyone’s trying to get that out,” said Schroedel, a financial analyst in quality control with Duke Patient Revenue Management Organization. “You kind of have to say nothing.”

Schroedel’s episode of the long-running syndicated game show airs at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday on WTVD 11. Until then, show rules dictate that he can’t give away how he did.

Even without that one detail, the story of Schroedel’s appearance on the show that’s been on the airwaves for 42 years is one worth telling.

The journey began last year, when his wife Mary was pregnant with their first child. The couple picked up the habit of watching the nightly syndicated game show around dinner time. Schroedel was so adept at solving the show’s puzzles, his wife filled out the online application for him and sent it in.

In January, the couple’s daughter was born and, like babies usually do, she upended whatever routines had been set before.

So when an email came this summer inviting Schroedel to a Wheel of Fortune audition in Raleigh, he admitted he hadn’t seen – or thought – of the show in a while.

But at the audition, Schroedel still had little trouble solving the computer-generated puzzles and had no butterflies when it came time to try his hand at mock puzzle-solving situations in front his fellow hopefuls.

Producers reached out to Schroedel the next day to see if he’d be interested in appearing on the show.

Early on the morning of September 15, after flying out to Los Angeles two days earlier, Schroedel was picked up outside of his hotel and whisked to Wheel of Fortune’s studios in Culver City for a long day of taping.

After doing some paperwork, getting a refresher on the rules and a few practice spins of the wheel, he sat in the audience for the taping of the first three of the five shows that film each day.

Unfazed by most of the experience, when he finally got took his spot on the stage for his show, a degree of awe set in.

“When Pat and Vanna walk out and you’re actually taping your episode for real, you’re like ‘Wow, this is actually happening,’” Schroedel said.

Nearly a month later, the details are still vivid. He can easily recall how the studio was smaller, busier and chillier – to offset the heat of the lights and machinery – than you’d expect.

He can also recall the nervous of energy of the show’s opening moments and how it quickly subsided once the games began.

But was he able to have the kind of success he had watching at home?

He can’t say. You’ll have to watch for yourself.