New Trier best friends win $55K, Hawaii trip on “Wheel of Fortune”


Zach Larsen and Ben Sklansky became fast friends in fifth grade when they met each other as teammates on the basketball court. Now, years later, the New Trier High School sophomores have teamed up again to win big in a different kind of competition: "Wheel of Fortune."

The "dynamic duo," as they like to call themselves, has enough money to buy several vowels since winning $55,246 in cash and prizes and a trip to Hawaii on the show that aired Tuesday, Feb. 28. The episode was part of Teen Best Friends Week.

"Deep down, I always knew we were going to win," Sklansky said. "I just felt it."

After seeing a commercial calling for teens to apply as "Wheel of Fortune" contestants, Sklansky thought he and Larsen should try it.

"I thought 'Well, why not?'" Sklansky said.

The Wilmette teens got a call back in early December and attended an audition in downtown Chicago. By the end of the month, Larsen and Sklansky were selected as contestants.

"They liked our chemistry, our charisma," Larsen said. "They wanted people to be expressive and enthusiastic, and I think they saw that in us."

The two Trevians traveled to Culver City, Calif., on Jan. 20 to film their episode. On set, they strategized, practiced calling out letters and spun the wheel before their stage time. Once they were on, they were treated like stars, Sklansky said, getting full make-up and water and touch-ups between rounds.

Not to mention, they also met "Wheel" hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White, who were "very nice and friendly," they said.

By the end of the game, Larsen and Sklansky locked in the most money with $21,246, therefore becoming the winners and earning the right to play in the bonus round. They won $34,000 more during the bonus by guessing the phrase: "During the break."

"We were in shock when we won it all," Larsen said.

"You just walk away from that and think 'How did I win all that?'" Sklansky said.

After they won, they could not tell anyone the results until the episode aired. But now that it has been broadcast, more people have recognized the duo in the hallways and excitement has surrounded them.

With their winnings, Sklansky bought a Dodge Challenger and Larsen plans to buys "lots of shoes and clothes." The rest of the money will be going to college savings for each of the students.