Todd Koch has watched "Wheel of Fortune" for years, a self-proclaimed "Wheel Watcher" who oftentimes solves the puzzles before the contestants. But in late July, Koch did more than simply watch other contestants spin the wheel on the iconic game show: he got to spin the wheel himself.
Koch, who lives in Greenwood and has worked in the UAFS admissions office for four years, will appear as a contestant on an episode of the show airing on KFSM Channel 5 at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 27.
It was literally a dream come true for Koch, who began the process of appearing on the show last November when he attended an audition in Tulsa, Okla., at the Hard Rock Casino. He was called back for a second audition in February and waited two long weeks to see if he would receive a letter in the mail telling him he would be a contestant.
Two weeks passed, and when pulling into the driveway one day, he saw his wife checking the mail. She reached into the mailbox, and pulled out a "Wheel of Fortune" envelope.
"I immediately started honking my horn and speeding to get into the driveway to get out and jump for joy," he said. "I called my parents, my wife’s grandparents — who are also avid Wheel Watchers — and the rest of our immediate family to tell them I was going to be on the show."
Koch flew to Las Vegas for filming on July 27 and filmed his show on July 28. In the time leading up to the filming of his show, watching the other contestants made Koch more excited than nervous. But that changed when he stepped on stage for his show’s filming.
"Watching all the other contestants going on and solving puzzles and winning money made me excited," he said. "But once I got on stage to film my show, I instantly became nervous. Maybe it was the TV cameras, maybe it was my family and friends in the audience that I wanted to impress. Either way, once the show started I became both nervous and excited."
Shortly after the beginning of the show, however, he calmed down and was "in his element."
"You can see my shoulders sink down and start to relax, if you watch closely enough," he joked.
While the show has already filmed, Koch is forbidden from give specific details as to its results until after the show airs. But he did say it was the experience of a lifetime.
"The experience is something I will treasure forever," he said. "I loved the fact that I was part of a theme week. My show was filmed in Las Vegas and themed as ‘Wheel of Fortune at the Venetian Pallazzo.’"
Friends, family and coworkers of Koch will gather at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 for a watch party at Joe’s Cantina & Grill at 3400 S. 74th St. in Fort Smith.
Koch earned a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications from the University of the Ozarks in 2009 and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in sports management. He played baseball for Ozarks from 2005-2009. He and his wife Mandi has a three-year-old son, Carter, and are expecting a baby girl.