The semi-finals of the tournament will air tonight, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. on WCBD-TV, Ch. 2, with Will competing for a place in the finals on Nov. 13.
His parents, Lynn and Mary Helen Dantzler of Mount Pleasant, are understandably proud of their son, who plays football for the Battlin’ Bishops and serves on the altar at Stella Maris Church every Sunday. He has two older sisters, Katherine and Megan.
Will said being an active Catholic was helpful in at least one category.
“My favorite category on ‘Jeopardy!’ is anything pertaining to the Bible,” he said in an e-mail to The Miscellany. “Since I’ve had four years of theology courses at Bishop England, I feel prepared for anything biblical.”
Not so much with the pop culture questions, though. Will said it became evident in the very first game that this group of trivia buffs wasn’t tuned in to the world of movies and celebrities.
“Nobody even rang in for four of the five movie clues,” he wrote.
His mom said it was actually humorous because the producers thought pop culture would be a big hit.
“These kids just didn’t know it the way they did geography or English literature,” she said in a phone interview.
Watching “Jeopardy!” together has always been part of the family routine, and Mrs. Dantzler said they are very competitive with one another, but admitted Will is the champ. He said he and his friends also participate in trivia night at local restaurants.
Will said the hardest part of the tournament so far wasn’t knowing the answers, but being fast enough to hit the buzzer before anyone else.
“All three contestants are trying to get in on just about every question, so you have to time it perfectly just to get a chance to respond,” he said.
His reflexes and knowledge led him from a field of 75,000 who tried out for the show. Mrs. Dantzler explained that the number was whittled down in the first phase by an online test, which 10,000 teens passed. From that, 300 were chosen for the next round of competition, with mock shows and further testing at six sites around the country.
Finally, 15 players were left to participate in the show.
Now, in the semi-finals, nine remain: the top five winners of the first week, plus four wildcards who had the next-highest earnings after the winners.
Will said the contestants still on the show haven’t actually won any money yet. The winner of the final round will receive $75,000; the first-runner up $25,000 or the earnings total, whichever is higher; and the second-runner up $15,000 or the total.
“I plan to use any winnings to contribute toward my college education,” he said.