With only a few weeks to prepare for the widely popular trivia contest, the Orlando geotechnical engineer studied reference books and online encyclopedias, brushing up on subjects such as Shakespeare, literature and opera.
But he knew that wasn’t going to be enough, so he took to the Wii.
“All of the knowledge and all of the studying isn’t going to help you unless you have your buzzer skills down,” said Kunzen, who played video games to strengthen his reflexes and build his hand-eye coordination.
His strategy worked. Kunzen was the winner of last night’s “Jeopardy!,” collecting $28,000. He’s back for more tonight.
It was a lifetime opportunity he had almost given up on.
For Kunzen, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 2004 and 2006, the journey to “Jeopardy!” began with an online test the show gives to thousands of possible contestants every 18 months.
He passed the test, and in summer 2009 auditioned in Miami, where he interviewed, took another test, and ended up in a contestant pool with hundreds of other hopefuls. Then . . . nothing. It wasn’t until October 2010 that the show’s contest coordinator called Kunzen, interrupting a nap.
By the middle of November, he was in Los Angeles filming the show.
From the beginning of his first episode, Kunzen took the game by storm, breezing through categories covering the Roman Empire, the Civil War and current events. He bet big on “Daily Doubles,” prompting host Alex Trebek to encourage him to keep his bets high.
“Alex has a really goofy sense of humor,” said Kunzen.
By the time contestants reached Final Jeopardy!, the game was locked. Kunzen had more than twice the amount of money than the contestant in second place.
“As long as I didn’t do something stupid and over bet, I had a guaranteed victory,” said Kunzen, who answered wrong on “Final Jeopardy!” but still secured the win.
Tune in at 7 p.m. on WFTV-Channel 9 in Orlando to see how he does tonight.