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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Two Vanderbilt students compete in Jeopardy! High School Reunion Tournament

Juniors Rohit Kataria and Jackson Jones both formerly competed on Jeopardy! Teen Tournament in 2019 and returned to compete again on Feb. 20 and 24, respectively.
Graphic depicting juniors Rohit Kataria and Jackson Jones on the Jeopardy! stage. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez, photos courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
Lexie Perez
Graphic depicting juniors Rohit Kataria and Jackson Jones on the Jeopardy! stage. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez, photos courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

Juniors Rohit Kataria and Jackson Jones returned to the Jeopardy! stage this past January, four years after their original appearance on the Teen Tournament. Kataria and Jones faced off against 25 other former teen contestants for a $100,000 grand prize.

Kataria placed second in his quarterfinal match, which aired on Feb. 20, earning a $5,000 prize. Jones won his quarterfinal episode, which aired on Feb. 24, and is moving on to the semifinals, which begin airing on March 3. 

Kataria said his interest in trivia was fostered from a young age by his father, who was a Jeopardy! fan, and he joined his school’s quiz bowl team as soon as he was old enough. Kataria added that he began auditioning for the show in middle school and reached various rounds of the process until he was invited to participate in the Teen Tournament the summer before his junior year of high school. 

“I took it so seriously in high school. A lot of who I was was centered around trivia and being relatively good at it. When I lost in the first round to a freshman, it stung so hard,” Kataria said. “Now that I’m in college and have gotten to explore more things, trivia is not the main thing at the forefront of my entire life.”

Junior Rohit Kataria with Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik. (Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
Junior Rohit Kataria with Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik. (Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

After his first appearance on the show in 2019, Kataria used his winnings to give back to the community that he said fostered his love of trivia. He added that he wanted to find a way to further educational opportunities for students from Scioto County in Ohio, his home county, by setting up a scholarship for those who overcame great obstacles in their lives.

“The summer after my freshman year of college, I was interning for my local educational service center. Seeing how much time and effort they put into extracurricular and academic enrichment opportunities meant a lot to me and made me want to do something special with my money,” Kataria said. “Perseverance and resilience are really strong qualities to have, especially in southern Ohio, in order to make it past barriers like economic hardship and general lack of opportunity.”

Jones added that he was surprised by the number of former Jeopardy! contestants at Vanderbilt. He added that he has spoken to multiple former contestants who attended Vanderbilt, and one of his professors, Dr. Adam Meyer, reached out to him after his episode aired and told him that he too had been on the show.

“It’s interesting to see how the web of Jeopardy! contestants is centered here,” Jones said.

Junior Jackson Jones with Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik. (Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
Junior Jackson Jones with Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik. (Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

With regard to game strategy, Jones said he was aggressive in how he picked clues, but much of the game is based on luck.

“If things don’t go your way, it doesn’t mean things won’t go your way the whole game,” Jones said. “You just have to take each clue at a time and not get freaked out.”

Kataria attributed the aggressive betting and clue-picking strategies of his competitors to the fact that they had the mindset that they were “playing with house money.”

“We got a paid-for [trip] to LA and got to see our friends, so we played with a ‘this isn’t real money’ mindset by taking more risks,” Kataria said.

Both Kataria and Jones said they felt less stressed this time around and were excited to be reunited with old friends. 

“We all made a group chat four years ago, and it kind of died as we all went to college and went our separate ways, but ever since we knew we were coming back, it’s been a lot more active,” Jones said. “Because we live all over the country, it’s hard to see each other. Getting to see everybody in one place was just surreal.”

Kataria echoed Jones’s sentiments, saying that reconnecting with the people he competed against four years ago was a highlight of his second appearance on the show.

“It almost sounds silly, but most of my favorite memories from filming for Jeopardy! weren’t ones on the stage. They were the ones backstage with the other contestants or at the hotel,” Kataria said.

This sense of community led to a less competitive environment during the show, according to Kataria.

“While the quarterfinals were filming, the 24 people not filming were on the Wheel of Fortune stage next door watching the game play out in real time,” Kataria said. “Even though we knew we were competing against each other, we all cheered everyone on and went crazy when someone got a Daily Double or some gutsy wagering paid off. Those five days will be a core memory that I take with me for the rest of my life.”

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About the Contributors
Jacob Stoebner
Jacob Stoebner, News Editor
Jacob Stoebner ('26) is from Franklin, Tenn., and is majoring in biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering. When not writing for The Hustler, you can usually find him running, hiking in parks around Nashville or reading. He can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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