Iowa City native Paul Nelson, 23, a legislative correspondent in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Washington, D.C., office, became the new “Jeopardy!” champion Friday with a wave to his parents, Scott and Tracy Nelson of Iowa City.
Clueless on the Final Jeopardy category, he wagered nothing and wrote “thanks Mom and Dad” for his answer, preserving his $14,000 earnings. He snatched the crown from previous “Jeopardy!” champ Keith Whitener of Charlotte, N.C., who until Friday, had amassed $147,597 in winnings — plus another $1,000 for his third-place finish that day.
In a weird twist, second-place finisher Ariane Helous of Santa Cruz, Calif., also wagered nothing, but did know the answer in the final category: College Football Team Nicknames. The answer: The team known as these since 1895, plays its home games on top of Hayward Seismic Fault. The question: Who are the California Golden Bears. (Just happened to be Helous’ alma mater). Whitener guessed Trojans, wagered $11,700 and plunged into third place.
Nelson jumped to an early lead, grabbing a Daily Double win with a $5,000 wager in the science category. Correct question: What is chlorophyll? That brought his earnings up to $16,400. He lead through the final stretch, missed an answer or two, then Whitener passed him by $2,300 with a correct Daily Double question, before losing in the end.
Nelson was practically unstoppable on history and political categories. That’s a natural for the homeschooled student who majored in political science at Wheaton College in Illinois and graduated summa cum laude in 2011.
Sounds like he has a lot for which to thank Mom and Dad.
Tune in Monday, Nov. 5, to see how he fares against two new competitors. “Jeopardy!” airs at 11:30 a.m. on KWWL Channel 7.