Terp Returns to ‘Jeopardy!’ Stage for New Tournament—and Redemption
Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Instead of showing up a rival or impressing the crush that got away, Dan Oxman ’23’s plan for vindication at the high school reunion he recently attended was just to stay cool—behind the “Jeopardy!” podium.
Oxman, a chemical engineering major at the University of Maryland, is one of 27 contestants from the popular quiz show’s 2018-19 Teen Tournaments to return for the new “Jeopardy!” High School Reunion Tournament. His quarterfinal matchup—the first step toward a possible $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the Tournament of Champions—airs tonight.
“Last time when we competed, I’m not gonna say it was awkward, but it was really a weird situation because you don’t know any of these people and you’re thrust into a competition where everyone is proving who’s smartest. And also, we were all in high school, so there’s so many hormones,” Oxman said. “This time, I had a fantastic time. Because it was the second time, everyone was so much more comfortable and not nervous.”
Back in its 35th season, “Jeopardy!” had a plethora of podium-ready teen contestants, prompting the show to host two Teen Tournaments. Oxman, then a rising senior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., was one of them. He would often watch “Jeopardy!” with his parents, who thought he’d be good on the show, so he took a “random online test” and impressed at the interviews and mock games in D.C.
The best part of that first experience, Oxman said, was meeting the late, legendary host Alex Trebek: “He pulled up to the filming in what they call a Canadian tuxedo—denim jeans and a denim jean jacket—and he took the time to personally shake all of our hands and actually look us in the eyes like we were real people. … He’s really one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
The worst part? Maybe being a little too good on the buzzer. In what he now jokingly calls a “tragic turn of events,” Oxman blanked after rushing to ring in, answering three $2,000 questions wrong in a row and at one point finding himself $6,400 in the hole. He clawed his way back up, but it wasn’t enough to get out of the red in time for Final Jeopardy.
“Dan, this wasn’t your day,” Trebek said on that episode. “You were ringing in a tad early, and things just didn’t work out.”
But four years later, Oxman got a surprise chance at redemption. He received an email in September about the new High School Reunion Tournament, what “Jeopardy!” calls “a first-of-its-kind twist on the traditional College Championship format.” Hosted by Mayim Bialik, the 14-day event features nine quarterfinal games, three semifinals and a two-episode championship.
This time around, Oxman went in with a strategy to be less aggressive and just focus on the categories he knew—like science clues, after almost four years of engineering courses at UMD.
And as “Jeopardy!” and Terp fans tune in tonight, he hopes they notice one other change from his last appearance: “Last time, my mom made me shave my beard before I went on, so I looked, like, 15,” he said. “This time, I’ll be able to actually have my beard like I like it.”
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