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Ken Jennings. James Holzhauer. And now Matt Amodio.
Amodio joined the Hall of Fame list of "Jeopardy" legends with the third-highest earnings in history during regular play after securing his 17th win in Thursday's episode.
The Yale computer science Ph.D. student from New Haven, Connecticut (and originally from Medina, Ohio) took home $42,400 Thursday after defeating contestants Steve Spillman and Ruth Reichard, bringing his 17-day total to $547,600.
That lands Amodio at No. 3 on the list of top prize winners in non-tournament play, behind only Jennings ($2,462,216) and Holzhauer ($2,520,700), but has a long way to go to catch them. Friday marks the show's 37th season finale; if he wins then, Amodio returns for the 38th season, with Mike Richards as host, on Sept. 13.
"The show has had so many brilliant people (on it)," Amodio said of his fellow contestants in a statement. "I’m honored to be thought of as even close to them.”
On Thursday, the final category was "Blockbuster Movies" and the clue: "Based on a 1974 novel, this film has been described as combining 'An Enemy of the People' and 'Moby Dick.'" The correct response is "Jaws."
'Jeopardy!' contestant Matt Amodio's 14-day streak makes him the 4th highest earner in show's history
His record-breaking streak has at time been overshadowed by the search for Alex Trebek's permanent replacement, which has been finalized with Richards and Mayim Bialik, but Amodio's run has attracted the attention of his idol.
Amodio, a self-proclaimed "huge Ken Jennings fan," opened up about their exchange to Variety on Thursday, saying, "I still can’t believe it."
"In terms of the top moments of my life, I assume getting my Ph.D. will be a good one. When I get married, that’ll be a good one. I’m not sure they’re gonna unseat Ken Jennings recognizing me," he told the outlet. "That’s really number one in my book."
'Jeopardy!' contestant Matt Amodio cashes in on seven-day winning streak, raking in over $250K
— Matt Amodio (@AmodioMatt) August 10, 2021
Amodio said his initial goal when first competing on "Jeopardy!" was to "to win one game," but he's fared much better than that.
"Once you win… you can call yourself a 'Jeopardy! champion.' Not a 'Jeopardy!' participant,'" he told Variety. "That’s something nobody can take away from you. You might lose the next game, or you might lose 71 games later if you’re Ken Jennings. You’re going to lose eventually. But that never takes away from the descriptor." (Jennings' streak lasted 74 consecutive games.)
Amodio has played with four guest hosts during his 17-game run: He was first crowned "Jeopardy!" champion by Robin Roberts; his streak has lasted through LeVar Burton's and David Faber's hosting duties. Sportscaster Joe Buck took over Monday and appears to be Amodio's favorite.
"I live and breathe baseball, so to get to play with Joe Buck was tremendous," he told Variety. "I didn’t know what to expect going in because I’ve never seen him in any context other than calling baseball games, but he brought such energy to the show. His voice gives the roller coaster building up to the climax."
'Jeopardy!' announces two new hosts: Mike Richards and Mayim Bialik
"Jeopardy!" has spent the past seven months rotating 16 guest hosts at the podium once manned by late host Trebek. Some, including LeVar Burton and former champ Jennings, were contenders for the permanent slot, while others, such as "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts, were paying tribute to Trebek's legacy.
Contributing: Elise Brisco
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy!': Matt Amodio becomes No. 3 in all-time winnings