‘Holy crap!’ says one of two Coast residents who won cash prizes on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

Two Mississippi Coast residents, both with military backgrounds, have won money as contestants on the popular TV game show, the Wheel of Fortune.

Mark Kirsch of Long Beach won $37,747 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Aruba, in a pre-recorded show that aired on New Year’s Day. He was an exuberant contestant and the show’s top winner.

Anquanette Sterling of Biloxi won $16,700. She was a contestant on an episode that aired New Year’s Eve and quickly won her cash prizes, ranking second among two other contestants.

How will they spend their winnings?

“Charities, assisting in my retirement, making my family more financial stable and assisting my wife with her growing business,” Kirsch told the Sun Herald. His wife owns Beach Windz Travel and Events.

Sterling said she plans to pay off debts and put some away “for a rainy day.”

Kirsch and Sterling said they’re longtime fans and had always wanted to be on the show.

“Oh, my God, it was awesome just walking into the studio after going through metal detectors,” Sterling said.

“I see a big old sign saying ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and I can’t believe it’s actually happening. It was surreal. The experience was worth every 22 minutes of it,” Sterling said.

They didn’t get a chance to meet each other because their shows, filmed in Culver City, California, were filmed on different days.

Navy First Class Petty Officer Sterling is an instructor assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. She also lives in Biloxi. She is a Brunswick, Ga. native.

Kirsch, a 26-year veteran of the Coast Guard, moved to Long Beach after he retired. He is originally from Havertown, Pennsylvania.

They had to keep the results of their contests a secret until their shows aired.

They applied online

Sterling and Kirsch were recently picked to be contestants at auditions in New Orleans. They had filled out applications online on the Wheel Watcher Club fan page.

“I’ve watched the show for years, and came from overseas before I moved to Biloxi, and finally logged in to the fan page and applied to audition,” Sterling said.

She took a day off from work to audition but didn’t think anything would come of it except for the experience of trying out.

“About 1 1/2 weeks later, I got a letter telling me they would like me to be a contestant. I said, ‘Holy crap!’”

Sterling was able to see most of the other shows filmed because hers was one of the last to be recorded.

She’s a spectrum operations instructor who teaches classes for most branches of the military.

Was she nervous?

“Absolutely, even though I’m used to greeting people and speaking to students,” she said.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe this is actually happening!’ After the first five minutes, I was like, ‘okay, we’ve got to try to win some money.’”

She and her husband Jerrold, a Navy Reservist stationed in Gulfport, have two children, a 6-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her children and watching Wheel of Fortune.

Kirsch is a driver for Southeastern Shipping in Ocean Springs, working as a FedEx contracted employee.

His wife Michele, a 1985 Long Beach High graduate, owns her own travel agency, Beach Windz Travel & Events. They have seven children and six grand children.

Aside from watching Wheel of Fortune, Kirsch enjoys golfing and watching NASCAR.

Robin Fitzgerald covers real-time news, such as crime, public safety and trending stories. In nearly 40 years as a journalist, her highest honors include investigative awards for covering the aftermath of the fatal beating of a Harrison County jail inmate in 2006 and related civil rights violations. She is a Troy University graduate.