Jim Virtel was only one correct "Final Jeopardy" question away from winning it all.
The Lemont native made an impressive showing on the popular game show Friday, and was leading returning champion Joel Pool $14,800 to $11,800 going into the final round.
The "Final Jeopardy" answer in the subject of "Military Matters" was: "In 1934 the lease for this place was increased to $4,085 per year; since 1959 the checks haven't been cashed."
Virtel guessed "Fort Knox." However, the correct answer was "Guantanamo."
He bet $8,801, bringing his final total to $5,999. Pool also missed the question, but bet only $3,100. He won with a total of $8,700.
Virtel took home $1,000 for appearing on the show.
"It was exciting, and that's all I hoped for. I'm happy with how I did," .
Virtel, 28, is a longtime fan of "Jeopardy!" and had been trying to get on the show since he was in college.
"I would watch the show when I was really young, even though I didn't know most of the questions," Virtel said. "When I was in high school and college and living with my parents, we would watch it daily. My whole family is really into it."
Last year, Virtel's dream finally came true when he passed an online exam and was selected to compete on an episode taped in January.
Virtel graduated from in 2002. He earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and French from Marquette University in 2006, and a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2010.
He is currently living in Chicago with his wife, Raquel Frisardi, who he married in January. In the coming weeks the couple will move to Boston, where Virtel hopes to find work as a philosophy or sports writer.
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