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West Ashley man takes top spot on 'Wheel of Fortune', previously played on 'Jeopardy'

Matthew Warren Wheel of Fortune appearance

West Ashley resident Matthew Warren won big on Wheel of Fortune during an episode that aired on Jan. 2. Warren went home with $55,000 and a trip to Mexico after he was the episode's winner. Warren previously appeared on "Jeopardy!" in 2010. Carol Kaelson/Wheel of Fortune/Provided

Many Americans share memories of settling into dinner as a parade of game shows filtered through the early evening.

For some, such as Matthew Warren, those daily rituals turned into life goals.

On Jan. 2, Warren, a West Ashley native, appeared on "Wheel of Fortune" where he won big, beating the two other contestants and going home with $55,000 in cash and a trip to Mexico, totaling $63,700.

Warren auditioned for "Wheel of Fortune" near the start of the pandemic in spring 2020, sending off a video detailing his background, his hobbies and a story about how, when he was 3 years old, his mom would regularly ask him, "What does Pat (Sajak) say?" and Warren would respond with the game show host's signature, "Oh, Vanna."

Warren's appearance on "Wheel of Fortune" wasn't his first time auditioning for the game show nor his first time on a major network game show.

In 2010, Warren appeared on another longtime household TV staple — "Jeopardy!" Warren placed second, going home with the memory of meeting Alex Trebek and $2,000. 

Then in 2014 he made a play for "Wheel of Fortune" when the game show's audition RV, the Wheelmobile, stopped in North Charleston. Unlike the video he sent in 2020, he said his strategy was to be loud, bubbly and somewhat obnoxious — jumping around and clapping. It didn't work.

He similarly thought his video where he played it more even-keeled in 2020 didn't work either. He went through a series of interviews last summer and then finally flew out at the beginning of November to film his episode. 

Watching himself on TV, surrounded by family and friends on Jan. 2, was almost like experiencing the taping all over again. He remembers about a third of his performance during the taping of the show. 

"It was such a blur," he said. "I really settled into a groove and did well. I came across a lot less awkward than I thought I was going to."

Warren said he isn't sure what he will do with his winnings.

"The whole thing feels like a dream," he said. 

Warren met Vanna White, cohost of the show and a Myrtle Beach native, before the taping when she came in to talk with contestants before the episode's start and spoke with Sajak at the end after winning. 

"I can't imagine the conversations they’ve had over the years," Warren said.

His parents taped the episode and watched it at least six times the night it aired, he said. 

"Both my parents have been beside themselves," he said. 

Besides game shows, Warren prides himself on his vinyl record collection, which includes about 600 records, many found at thrift stores.

He has two favorites: an original copy of "Quadrophenia" by The Who with the booklet still included and a limited-release single from Charleston folk duo Shovels & Rope sold by West Ashley's Monster Music and Movies. 

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Reach Alan Hovorka at 843-998-9309 or ahovorka@postandcourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajhovorka, Mastadon @alanhovorka@newsie.social or Instagram @alanhovorka.

Alan Hovorka is a features reporter for The Post & Courier, writing about everything from food to entertainment to sense-of-place stories. After graduating from Ball State University in Indiana, he spent five years covering government and education in central Wisconsin before coming to the Lowcountry.