SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
A Moweaqua teen got the chance to play one of his favorite games on national television.
Jordan Villanueva, 17, was chosen as a contestant on the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, which is airing on WAND-TV 17 January 30 – February 12.
Villanueva, a senior at Central A&M High School, enjoys trivia. He is currently captain of his Scholastic Bowl team, recently helping bring his team to win the conference.
This was the second time he tried out to be a contestant on Jeopardy!.
“The first time I tested, I had the face-to-face interview, but nothing came of it,” he said.
Villanueva took the online challenge earlier this year and was called for the first interview.
“Then I got a second interview in Chicago in September. They told us we’d hear back about the third week of October. I didn’t hear anything,” he said.
Little did he know word got to WAND in October that Villanueva had been selected and WAND personnel orchestrated an ambush on him at school to announce his selection in the Teen Tournament. In November Villanueva, his father Roel, mother Cinda, and sister Kaitlin were in California for the taping of the tournament.
“I’m a long-time fan of Jeopardy!. It’s basically my favorite show. I’ve been dreaming about being on it for a long time. I was in disbelief for a little bit. It was an amazing experience,” he said.
All ten shows were taped within a two-day period. The days were long. The first day Villanueva left the hotel at 8 a.m and did not return until 6:30 p.m. During the first day, the contestants filmed promotions for the show and for the upcoming online challenge for the next Teen Tournament, before filming the first quarterfinal.
The contestants had a rehearsal game before playing in the tournament to get them familiar with the real game. This year’s contestants were from Georgia, Minnesota, Connecticut, Texas, California, Kentucky, and Iowa.
“Rehearsal was a blast,” Villanueva said. “It played like a show but Glen, who was running it, made sarcastic comments and joked around. He was helping us relax and preparing us for the show, but it was just fun.”
While other filming was ongoing, the waiting contestants were kept from watching.
“We weren’t allowed to watch the others because you could calculate what it would take to be a wild card contestant. They kept us buried behind stage in the green room. We were kept very much secluded,” Villanueva said.
The show’s host, Alex Trebek, also made an impression on Villanueva.
“Alex is the coolest guy ever. He’s what you’d expect but he was very surprising. He’s a calm, cool person. He’s very middleclass. He lives in a small house, loves his power tools, drive a 1998 pickup,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva said he would be interested in playing the game again if the opportunity presented itself.
“Once you’ve been a contestant, you can’t be on the show again with the same host. Should Alex Trebek retire, I would definitely be interested in trying again,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva encourages other teens and adults to take the online test and possibly get on the show.
“The test is difficult, but it’s very doable. It takes about 10 minutes and it’s definitely worth it. You have nothing to lose. I’m encouraging all my friends who are interested in trivia to try it,” he said.
Editor’s note: Villanueva’s contest on Jeopardy! aired Monday, February 4. At the time of this interview, he could not reveal the outcome of the game.