People often enter contests on a whim and rarely have anything come from them. Sean Honsberger, formerly of Hamburg, had a much different experience when he took a chance and signed up to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune and is now waiting for his show to air.
“It was an awesome experience and one that I’ll always remember and be thankful for,” he said.
Honsberger, 27, grew up and spent most of his life in Hamburg before moving to California at 17 and joining the Marine Corps. He has been with the Marines for eight years and is a Staff Sergeant as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (as he puts it simply basically the bomb squad) and is married to his “best friend” Patricia and has an 18 month old son, Blake.
“The military really appealed to me because of the challenge, adventure and opportunity to travel and make a difference,” said Honsberger on why he joined the Marines right out of high school.
It is because of the way he enjoys a challenge and his competitive nature that led to him signing up for the show. He said that he always watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and it was one night while sitting on the couch with his family that he thought “I’m pretty good at this game. I should figure out how to get on it.” Then he went onto the website and found out that signing up was not only easy, but that military week would be a perfect fit for him as well.
“It must have been about six months later. I had since forgotten all about signing up for the show. I was getting ready to graduate a special operations course and checked my email and noticed a Wheel of Fortune email,” explained Honsberger. “Well I opened it up and it said I was invited to audition for the show in Carlsbad, CA, on Sept. 10. It just so happens that Carlsbad is ten minutes from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton where I’m stationed and Sept. 10 was one of the only days I was free. I told my wife and laughed about and said I’ll try to make it.”
It was a last minute decision on the day of auditions that Honsberger decided to attend. He even had to run to the PX (mall on base) to grab clothes because all he had was his uniform. The audition took place at a hotel that was filled with approximately 150 people.
“I did my best to put on an overly happy and outgoing face. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and what can I say, I’m pretty competitive,” said Honsberger.
The room was set up with three people at a table with a drop down screen and two people acting like Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Then it was playing rounds of Wheel of Fortune to see who would be the best contestant. Honsberger remembers winning a couple puzzles, taking a written test which he felt he did terrible on and smiling and clapping more than he ever had in his life. Names were called for people who would stay and continue to audition. When there were about 15 to 18 people left after three hours, Honsberger’s name was not called but they explained that the group left made it to the end and that they would receive a latter in the mail within two weeks if they were picked.
It was two weeks and one day later that Honsberger received his letter.
“It was pretty exciting and surreal,” he said. “To say I was surprised is an understatement, but if you ask my wife (my biggest fan) she’d tell you she knew all along I’d get selected.”
Surprisingly, as with the audition date, the day Honsberger was asked if he would be available to film the show was one of the few that he would be able to which is rare with his job and constant traveling.
“From this point on I got serious. I know how to prepare for things that are competitive in nature so I bought the Wheel of Fortune app on my iPhone and started playing nonstop and watching the show every night,” he said.
The taping took place on Oct. 4. Honsberger got to the hotel the night before and got his Dress Blues ready for the next day.
“From there it was a bootcamp of sorts ran by the contestant coordinators getting us ready to be TV ready,” he explained. “How they’re able to stay so excited nonstop, I’ll never know.”
As part of the terms, Honsberger is unable to speak about the outcome of his show until after it airs. Honsberger’s episode will be shown during Military week (Dec. 2-6) on Dec. 3.
“I had a great time and it was an honor to represent the Marine Corps and all of my brother in the EOD field,” he said.