Student ‘staches ‘Price’ prizes

Fresno State student Zechariah Freeman walked away a winner when he was asked to “come on down” in January and be a contestant on “The Price is Right.”

Freeman was able to walk away with a myriad of prizes, including a round trip for two to New Orleans for six nights, as well as a day cruise, a trip for two to a Utah resort and spa for six nights and snow tubing passes for Brian Head Ski Resort.

He will be able to take pictures of his trips with two new Nikon Coolpix digital cameras for a grand total of $12,710 in prizes.

A longtime fan of “The Price is Right,” Freeman said he wanted to do something special to get noticed by the show’s producers.

“I was reading online about how you can get onto the show, and they basically said you have to stick out from everyone else,” he said. “So, I thought it’d be cool to grow out a handlebar mustache, because I already knew that I was going to say that I’m a Grandmaster Pizza Chef to the producer.”

Freeman, a senior majoring in recreation administration with a focus in therapy, works for his family’s pizza restaurant, Poor Richard’s Pizza, in his hometown of Porterville.

Along with his thick, pointed mustache, Freeman also wore a bright lime-green T-shirt with a picture of the show’s host, Drew Carey, also wearing a handlebar mustache, printed on it.

With his costume decided, Freeman said he was confident that he would get picked. He told his family, “It’s not if I get up, it’s when I get up.”

“The Price is Right” is a game show that chooses contestants out of the crowd and challenges them to pick a price for a gift or trip that is closest to the item’s actual amount.

Freeman said he bought tickets for the Jan. 8 taping of the show. He said that while he lined up outside the studio, the producer interviewed the 325 members of the audience, 10 at a time.

When Freeman was taken for an interview, he said the producer spent more time speaking with him than the other possible contestants in the room.

“I think I stood out from everybody else,” Freeman said.

Just as Freeman predicted, his unusual traits won him a place among the contestants. He was the seventh one called down.

“I was thrilled,” he said. “It’s so noisy in there. Because everyone is cheering, you can’t actually hear your name being called. They have a cue card they hold up and it has your name written on it. So when I saw my name, I stood up and started screaming, yelling and jumping around, and I ran up to the stage.”

Freeman was at the show with his fiancé, Bryn Buecheler, whom, at the time, he recently became engaged to.

“She just stood up and was screaming with me,” Freeman said. “We were both freaking out.”

His first challenge was to figure out the prices of the two digital cameras.

Freeman guessed $622, which was the closest to the actual price of $700. He went up to stand next to Carey, who made a gesture about Freeman’s mustache, then said, “George [Gray], he has somebody tied to the railroad track — unless we give him a good prize.”

Freeman did win, taking the two trips as the prize.

During the commercial break, Carey commented on Freeman’s shirt, saying, “Oh man, I was actually growing out a mustache for a couple of weeks but I just shaved it off today.”

Freeman told Carey that he was glad to win the trips, which he said he plans to use for his honeymoon getaway.

After spinning the wheel, Freeman thanked his family, friends and the recreation students at Fresno State. He soon made it to the final stage of the show: the showroom, where he was challenged to put a dollar amount on a set of prizes.

The prizes he bet on were an all-in-one exercise machine, a wood-burning fireplace and a black 2013 Chevrolet Camaro. Freeman bet too high ($35,900; actual retail value: $27,440) and lost the prizes, but he did not walk home empty handed: he has brand new cameras and a long honeymoon vacation ahead of him.

Freeman said he hopes to use his training in recreational therapy at either a mental institution, to help patients with rehabilitation, or at a veterans’ hospital, where he can help people overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.

Contestants at “The Price is Right” can return to the show after 10 years and try again. Freeman said that he plans to go back and claim the showroom prizes, only this time his mustache will be “bigger and better.”