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The ‘Wheel’ turns for best friends

Television: Second place on game show ‘Wheel of Fortune’ nets duo $6,250

Posted: April 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Ryan Carter, 15, left, and Caitlin Dugger, 16, of Saugus, hold their nametags in front of the first “Wheel” puzzle they solved.

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For much of her young life, Caitlin Dugger has watched “Wheel of Fortune” with her family.

It’s been a weeknight ritual for the Saugus High School sophomore and her father, Bob, that they have shared for as long as she can remember.

“My dad and I have competitions to see who gets the most points and prizes,” Caitlin said.

Caitlin recently one-upped her father by appearing as a contestant during the “Wheel of Fortune” Teen Best Friends week. The show, on which she appeared with good friend Ryan Carter of Saugus, aired April 21.

While they didn’t win the grand prize, Caitlin and Ryan did take second place, which netted a check for $6,250 (or $4,200 after taxes) — not to mention incredible memories and bragging rights.

“Oh my God, we had so much fun,” Caitlin said. “It was kind of scary. I mean, it’s national television, you want to do the best you can. It was really nerve-wracking.”

She applied online to become a contestant on the popular game show, which premiered in 1975, and was named as the top-rated syndicated show by TV Guide in 2008, after hearing about Teen Best Friends week.

Then Caitlin set out to find the best “Wheel of Fortune” candidate among her friends.

“I asked who was good at solving problems. Then we watched the show together and worked on the puzzles,” Caitlin said. “Finally, I told Ryan, ‘OK, I’m going to pick you.’”

The duo was asked to audition at the Culver City “Wheel of Fortune” studio, where they had to go through three different contests involving solving puzzles, spinning the wheel and answering questions.

Shortly thereafter, their parents got the call — Caitlin and Ryan had made the cut.

“We were so excited. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. We worked really hard to make it happen,” Caitlin said.

Taping the show was somewhat surreal for Caitlin, as she watched hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White work their TV magic in person.

“It was exciting when they came out, but they don’t really talk to you, unless you make the bonus round for Q & A, which we didn’t,” Caitlin said. “But I did say ‘hi’ to Vanna and (told) her she looked pretty. She’s really pretty.”

The entire Dugger family attended the taping, including Bob, mother Debbee, Caitlin’s twin brother Chris and little sister Becca; Ryan’s mom was also in the audience.

“It was a good atmosphere, having the full support of everyone. I knew my family was there, cheering us on,” Caitlin said. “There’s so much clapping on that show, it’s insane. The best part was meeting a whole bunch of new people.”

Caitlin and Ryan solved two puzzles correctly, including one with an entertainment theme.

“The answer was Kristin Stewart, ‘Twilight’ star,” Caitlin recalled. “I used to be a ‘Twilight’ fan.”

She will bank her $2,100 share of the winnings and use it toward buying a car, eventually, subsidized with earnings from her job in the games section at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

After the taping, word quickly got around at Saugus High that Caitlin would be on the show.

“All my friends have been talking about it for months, telling me, ‘You’re famous. I want your autograph,’” Caitlin said with a laugh. “It’s kind of scary, the thought of everyone watching you on TV, but at the same time, very gratifying.”

When the big day finally came on Wednesday, family and friends gathered at the Dugger home to watch the show at 7:30 p.m., during which time she also received dozens of encouraging texts and posts on her Facebook wall.

Seeing her appearance on TV revealed some surprises to Caitlin.

“When I heard myself, I thought, ‘Oh my God, is that what I sound like?,” she said. “It was fun to watch, though.”

Since Wheel of Fortune rules prohibit Caitlin from appearing as a contestant for another 10 years, she is turning her attention to another possibility.

“My aunt and I want to be on ‘The Price is Right’,” Caitlin said. “I love game shows. They’re so much fun.”


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