UConn student spins wheel

By on November 18, 2009

University of Connecticut junior psychology major Erika Puccio probably hates the letter “W” right now.

“W” stood between Puccio and the possibility of winning thousands of dollars worth of cash and prizes on the popular game show “Wheel of Fortune.” Puccio represented UConn during the annual “College Week” where she competed against students from the University of Delaware and Northeastern.

Puccio, a native of Shrewsbury, Mass., first completed an application for “Wheel of Fortune” this past summer and received an e-mail three weeks later in August informing her that she had an audition for the show.

“I was so excited and in disbelief that somehow I was selected,” Puccio said.

According to Puccio, the initial audition session involved two or three sessions per day that included between 70 and 100 students in her particular session.

“We had about 30 seconds to shout letters, solve puzzles, and be as excited as you possibly can to get noticed,” she said. “Once everyone had their turn, we took a five-minute written test about solving puzzles. The casting crew took a 20-minute break and when they came back, they announced the 20 to 25 of us who had moved on.”

Puccio waited with bated breath to hear her name called. Finally, Puccio was the last name announced when the casting crew revealed who would move forward.

After a second, more intimate round, Puccio waited another two weeks for a call that would inform her whether or not she would be a contestant on the show. Out of the hundreds of people who went in to audition, Puccio was one of the elite 15 selected to compete.

“When I found out I was going to be on ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ I screamed and jumped up and down with my mom,” Puccio said in a pre-interview with producers before taping began. “I immediately called every single person that I knew in my phone book.”

On the day Puccio taped her episode, she arrived at the Boston Convention Center where she signed in and went on the set where she practiced spinning the wheel and calling out letters. As the third show of the day to tape (out of five), there was quite a bit of waiting time for Puccio.

“I was so nervous, I was shaking,” Puccio said. “Each show takes about 20 minutes to tape, and it was the quickest, most nerve-wracking and exhilarating 20 minutes of my life.”

Puccio was shocked by the heaviness of the actual wheel and all the might it took to get it to move.

“On TV it looks like everyone spins it with ease,” Puccio said. “You have to reach so far across and throw your body into it for it to go around at least once. You also have to hold the peg above a certain marker,” she added. “Otherwise, you clip your fingers on the stopper and it does not feel good because it happened to me on my first practice spin.”

Throughout the game, Puccio did not have the greatest luck. When she had her first opportunity to spin, she got on the board, but went bankrupt on the next spin. In another round, Puccio was extremely close to solving the puzzle with only a few letters left on the board, but she lost the rounds when she incorrectly guessed the letter “W.” During the final round, Puccio had accumulated $30,000, which could have won her the game, but there were not enough letters on the board for her to formulate an appropriate guess.

“If I could play again, I would definitely practice more before hand,” Puccio said. “I would definitely remember my ‘-ings’ and not guess ‘W!'”

Puccio ended up leaving with $1,000 as consolation for placing third.

“Overall, this experience went above any expectation I had,” she said. “I could not have asked for a better experience and a better crew, not to mention the contestants were all amazing and we got so close by going through this experience together.”

Puccio advises future contestants to have fun with the game. With a once in a lifetime experience like playing “Wheel of Fortune,” Puccio believes it is important to have the most fun possible.

“You can’t take it too seriously,” Puccio recommends. “Be optimistic the entire time and play your heart out.”

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About Matt Busekroos

Matt Busekroos
Email: publisher@quchronicle.com
Twitter: @mattybooz
Year: 2012
Major: Print journalism
Hometown: Shrewsbury, Mass.
Dream Job: Writer for an entertainment trade magazine