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Freshman at Brown wins $100,000 in ‘Jeopardy!’ high school reunion tournament

Mayim Bialik and Justin Bolsen on the set of "Jeopardy!"Tyler Golden/Tyler Golden/Sony Pictures Telev

“What is the Eiffel Tower?”

A landmark Justin Bolsen won’t soon forget, that’s what.

With that correct question and a wager big enough to secure a win, the Brown University freshman became the first-ever “Jeopardy!” High School Reunion Tournament Champion. He scored a cool $100,000 in the show that aired Thursday night and a spot in the Tournament of Champions this fall.

After filming the show in January, Bolsen,18, kept his win a secret — not even his parents knew.

“Nobody knows. Nobody, nobody,” Bolson told the Globe Thursday afternoon, before the show aired. “I still have to keep it a secret for another few hours. My parents still have to watch. My dad was like, ‘There’s no way you won because you would’ve cracked by now.’ And I’m sitting there like, ‘Ha. Little does he know.’ ”


Bolsen and his Brown friends watched the finals in a campus lecture hall. His mom and sister watched back home in Georgia. His father, on a ski trip with his uncle, watched in Colorado.

What does he plan to do with the money?

“I don’t know. Probably pay for college,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not sure yet.”

The show’s first-ever High School Reunion Tournament, hosted by Mayim Bialik, was peppered with New Englanders. Seven of the 24 contestants who competed in recent weeks — all returnees from the 2018-’19 season teen tournaments — had local ties.

In the end, Bolsen edged out Jackson Jones, a Vanderbilt University junior, and Maya Wright, a senior at Emory University in Atlanta. Jones won $50,000 for second place; Wright won $25,000.

The final clue, from a category about landmarks, was this: “After its completion in the late 19th c., it was called a “truly tragic street lamp” & a “high and skinny pyramid of iron ladders.”


All three answered correctly, so it came down to their wagers. Bolsen bet $10,991— all but $9.

“I knew it was correct. I knew when I saw the clue. I gave the camera a thumbs-up. I was like: ‘It’s over,’” he said with a laugh. “I was really happy. I was trying to hold it in.”

Bolsen, a member of Brown’s quiz bowl team, edged out Jones by just $363, with a final score of $35,561. Jones finished with $35,198, and Wright with $24,610.

Justin Bolsen (right) edged out both Jackson Jones, a Vanderbilt University junior, and Maya Wright, a senior at Emory University in Atlanta. The three are shown here on the "Jeopardy!" set with host Mayim Bialik.Tyler Golden/Tyler Golden/Sony Pictures Telev

What did it feel like to win?

“I can’t even find a word for it. Just an overwhelming positive excitement emotion. . . . It’s really indescribable,” Bolsen said.

As a viewer, what felt special about this particular tournament was that it was clear the contestants had formed a tight-knit group and were cheering each other on. And Bolsen said the previously eliminated players were all in the audience for the finals.

“At the end, they do a camera-pan of the audience, and they’re all standing up. I thought it was really sweet, so I gave them a bow.”

The bus ride back to the hotel after his win “was crazy,” Bolsen said. “There was a buzz in the air. We all have that general feeling of excitement for each other, so that reached a peak by the end.”

On Thursday, he reflected on the whole experience, which started with a group trek to In-N-Out Burger on the first night and ended with that joyous bus ride.


“Just seeing everybody in general . . . the reunion itself and seeing all my friends again — even beyond winning, that was my favorite part.”

Lauren Daley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.