CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – U of I alum, meteorologist, and Champaign native Eric Ahasic has shown he is an expert in more than just weather through his recent success on “Jeopardy!”

In spring 2022, Ahasic appeared on his first episode of one of America’s longest running game shows in television history. It has been a long time coming for him.

“I first started watching ‘Jeopardy!’ during Ken Jennings’ 74-game winning streak in 2004,” said Ahasic, who serves as a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minn. “I was just entering high school at the time and was already involved in various trivia competitions through middle school, so watching his games and being able to answer some of the questions made me want to be on the show some day.”

Ahasic then began applying every year to the teen tournament, the college tournament, and eventually, the regular show. Over 16 years of trying to earn a spot on the show finally paid off.

“My original run of games was a wild roller coaster of emotions,” said Ahasic. “I was super nervous that morning, and it got even worse when they announced the defending champion had already won 16 games. I managed to overcome my nerves to win that first one, and then ride that wave to win the rest of the games taped that day.”

Ahasic won six games and over $100,000 in total in his first run, earning him a spot in the Tournament of Champions, airing on television now.

“To not only get on the show but win, and then win enough to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, was one of the coolest experiences of my life,” said Ahasic. “When I was invited back for the Tournament of Champions, the nerves and pressure were gone, and I was able to just enjoy the entire experience.”

Ahasic spent a week filming the Tournament of Champions at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif. He and other contestants called it “Jeopardy Summer Camp,” and Ahasic said he now calls a few of his competitors some of his all-time greats friends.

“Getting to meet all of the other contestants was a great part of the experience,” said Ahasic. “You realize how many incredibly bright people there are from all walks of life, and it was really fun to bond over our love of the show.”

Ahasic remembers many memorable moments during his time on the show. He shared that he won his first game because he randomly remembered one throwaway sentence from a Wikipedia article he had read a few weeks prior. He also remembered wagering all his money on a Daily Double, and then knowing the name of a waterfall in Scotland from hearing it mentioned during the British Open golf tournament.

“My most memorable moment playing the game was in my first game in the Tournament of Champions,” said Ahasic. “I was losing and getting beat on the buzzer but got both of the second round Daily Doubles back-to-back and bet everything on both of them. Hearing the gasp from the crowd and Ken saying, ‘Are you kidding me?’ in shock was equal parts thrilling and terrifying!”

Ahasic said he is only the second person in the show’s history to pull that off. 

“It was really cool to do something that surprised even Ken Jennings,” said Ahasic. “And he has seen a lot on the ‘Jeopardy!’ stage.”

Each year, the show only selects around 400 people out of the 100,000 that take the initial test to be on the show. Ahasic said he was happy to live out a childhood dream.

“The entire ‘Jeopardy!’ experience was really a dream come true,” said Ahasic. “Going on the show and winning wasn’t my life’s goal or anything, but it was definitely something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It is a huge accomplishment just to appear on the show at all.”