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Latest long-running 'Jeopardy!' champ is rocket scientist with WNY roots

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be on “Jeopardy!” but a Western New York native is showing it sure doesn’t hurt.

Jason Zuffranieri, who moved from Depew to Arizona in the third grade, has a 16-day total of $437,096 in winnings after another victory Friday night.

His run has led host Alex Trebek to reference last year’s run of contestant James Holzhauer, who won $2,462,216 in 32 straight wins.

Zuffranieri is introduced nightly by Trebek as a math teacher from Albuquerque, N.M.

However, his brother, local attorney Benjamin Zuffranieri Jr. said that Jason was a rocket scientist before going into teaching. Benjamin said that hasn’t been mentioned yet on the show, nor has Jason mentioned his Buffalo-area roots on the program.

Benjamin added that Jason is a mathematics wizard who has gone around the world for 10 years to participate in Sudoku competitions.

The local attorney added his brother’s math skills enabled him on one program to quickly calculate how to finish with a total of $41,143, on the day Jason’s mother Joann came to watch a taping. The number had significance because Jason’s mother’s birthday is April 11, 1943.

In another meaningful “Jeopardy!” moment, Jason told a story about his father, Benjamin Sr., teaching him how to knot a tie in high school. Jason’s brother, Benjamin Jr., said Jason added he never took the knot apart and wore it on the program for five straight days in honor of their father.

“That was very nice,” said his brother.

Their father died on July 26, a few days after Jason’s first show of the new season was taped. He had won six times at the end of last season.

Benjamin has watched Jason’s run of “Jeopardy!” nightly with his family in Western New York.

“It’s been fun,” Benjamin said.

Jason’s niece, Maggie, who is Benjamin’s daughter, concurs.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” said Maggie. “We’re all proud.”

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