Freehold Township Alumnus Wins Big on Jeopardy!


Matthew LaMagna with Jeopardy host Alex Trebek

Abbie Faith, Editor

Matthew LaMagna, a Freehold Township alumnus from the class of 2007, has finally checked off a long standing item on his bucket list: competing on the popular trivia game show, Jeopardy.

As a member of Freehold Township’s forensics team, LaMagna did Lincoln-Doulgas Debate, Public Forum Debate and Extemporaneous Speaking to help the team. After graduating from  Georgetown University, he went head to head with some of the nation’s most intelligent scholars.

LaMagna debuted on Jeopardy on October 23, where he competed against contestants Ali Palmer and Angela Chuang. LaMagna answered questioned about Alaskan plant life, U.S. military medals, T.V. initials, Canals, Winston Churchill and many more on the first day, and won $17,800. He won the first round and moved on to the next day as the reigning champion from the previous day.

On October 24, he proved to be victorious once again, beating out competitors Amy Thon and Sam Heft-Luthy. He was quizzed on subjects such as adjectives, college team names, yoga poses, Vouge, world literature, African American firsts, characters based on real people, libraries, and many others. His total earnings increased to $33,800.

LaMagna’s reign came to an end on October 27th. His impressive performance on Jeopardy is quite an inspiration to aspiring scholars at FTHS. I had a chance to talk to LaMagna and learn about his experiences on America’s favorite quiz show.


Q: Have you always been a trivia buff?

A: I wouldn’t call myself a buff, but I did have an ability growing up to remember small details.


Q: How did you prepare for your Jeopardy debut?

A: I prepared for my Jeopardy appearance in a few ways. First, I knew that there were certain topics I should know, such as Shakespeare, geography, or world history. So, I made flash cards with important facts on them and tried to drill as much as I could. Second, I knew that getting the timing down on the buzzer would be crucial to my success, so I recorded old episodes and tried to time ringing in (with a clickable pen) as soon as Alex was done reading the clue.


Q: What was it like trying to be the first contestant to “buzz in” for each question?

A: It was tough trying to be the first to ring in with a correct response. In my first game, I only was able to ring in on one of the first seven clues, so I had to adjust my timing in order to get back into the game. The buzzer can really psych you out if you let it, and I tried my best not to let it affect my gameplay.


Q: What range of emotions did you have going through the course of the competition?

A: There were a few emotions going through my head during filming. The tape day is a long one, so I had to make sure that I was as mentally sharp at the end of the day as I was at the beginning. Of course, there was also pre-show nervousness: I didn’t want to be a person who had a negative score going into Final Jeopardy (and not able to answer the final clue). Once I got on stage, though, all those nerves faded away. I knew I was good enough to play and good enough to win, so it was time to prove it.


Q:  Growing up, did you believe you were destined to be involved in such scholarly affairs?

A: I wouldn’t call it “destined”: I always wanted to be on a game show growing up, but the process to become a contestant is difficult. I’m just happy it all worked out for me in the end.