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Monday, January 30, 2023

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Ashtyn Mueller on the Wheel of Fortune set. (Photo: Carol Kaelson/Wheel of Fortune®/© 2022 Califon Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved) Ashtyn Mueller on the Wheel of Fortune set. (Photo: Carol Kaelson/Wheel of Fortune®/© 2022 Califon Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

The Word is Out: Ashtyn Won Big on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

SDSU student Ashtyn Mueller solved a bonus round puzzle to add a car to cash and travel prizes.
By Leslie L.J. Reilly and Jeff Ristine

San Diego State University’s Ashtyn Mueller spent three excruciating weeks keeping the news of a life-changing accomplishment to herself: her impressive win on TV’s “Wheel of Fortune.”

Mueller, a second-year English major with an emphasis on teaching and linguistics, finished as the top contestant in the College Week episode that aired Thursday, March 24, beating fellow spinners from Louisiana State University and the University of Washington.

Sporting a red SDSU sweatshirt, Mueller made it to the show’s bonus round finale and successfully solved its puzzle, almost instantly completing the letters that had been revealed, GI-E ME ---R --INI-N, with the phrase GIVE ME YOUR OPINION.

Mueller won $55,145, a Mini Cooper and a trip to Mexico. After applying to become a contestant at the urging of her grandmother, she taped the episode in early March, but was obligated to keep its outcome a secret until it aired across the U.S. on Thursday. No friends or family were able to attend the taping due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It was Topic A at the Associated Students-operated Aztec Recreation Center, where Mueller works in member services. “We were all anxious to watch the show as Ashtyn was so good about keeping everything a secret,” said department manager Vicki Greene.

On Friday, SDSU NewsCenter followed up on a previous interview with additional questions about what Mueller described as a “so surreal, so awesome” experience on the show.

How hard was it not to spill the beans about your winnings? 
It was SO difficult to not tell my family or friends about the show's results before it aired! I filmed at the beginning of March, so thankfully it was only about three weeks of secret-keeping. While it did feel like a never-ending three weeks, I knew that they would be so excited and surprised if they found out during the actual airing of the episode. It was so special to see their reactions and celebrate with my closest family and friends! 

What went through your mind when you saw the final puzzle?
I was originally feeling very intimidated because there were a lot of letters and words in the phrase. Then, after the given letters (R,S,T,L,N,E) came up, and I guessed my letters (G, M, C, I), I instantly began trying to solve the puzzle, even before the clock started to count down. I don't really even remember hearing Pat Sajak or the countdown clock. 

How are the prizes you won going to change your life?
I am so excited about the prizes that I won on the show! The trip I won is for an all-inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya, and I have never been to Mexico, so that  will be very memorable with my family. The Mini Cooper Countryman is such a great car, I can't wait to start driving it around sunny San Diego. 
What was the reaction of your family and friends? How many emails, texts, voicemails do you have today?
I am seriously blessed beyond all measure by the support and love I have received this past week! I have so many sweet messages from family and friends and reading them has been so special. We had a small watch party at my home in Temecula, and it was a great evening; seeing everyone's reactions was so surreal, I got emotional! My mom and sister screamed so loud when I solved the final puzzle, everyone was cheering so loud, and I was just so overwhelmed by my amazing support system and their love for me. 

In your winner’s interview with Maggie Sajak, you mentioned what you like about SDSU is the "community" — can you elaborate?
I have been very blessed to feel like I am really starting to find my place in the SDSU college area. I am a member services representative at the Aztec Recreation Center, and I love it there because it's right on campus. I am also an active member in the SDSU Catholic Newman Center on campus, and it has been very special to have a community on campus where I can attend church and also meet with my great friends there. I have also been able to start establishing myself in my major-focused classes, and have started getting closer with the peers in those classes, which has been amazing! 

You now own a lucky SDSU sweatshirt, too — where did it come from and what do you plan to do with it?
I definitely think the sweatshirt I wore on the show is lucky! However, I'm torn between two options of commemorating its luck; I can either frame it, or wear it to my finals coming up at the end of the semester.