If you asked most high school seniors what they were worried about toward the end of the school year, most of them would probably talk about deciding what to do after graduation: whether or not to go to college, where to live, what to major in, or how to make friends on an unfamiliar campus. For Will Wahl, the end of high school entailed catching food, gathering firewood, and developing alliances. Now a freshman at OSU studying political science with a pre-law focus, Wahl appeared on the most recent season of Survivor as the youngest contestant to ever compete on the show.
Wahl grew up in Long Valley, New Jersey. Though it is nearby NYC, it is an entirely different environment—a small farm town. He spent much of his free time outdoors, whether he was camping, fishing, or hiking. He also grew up watching Survivor and wondering, as many viewers do, what it would be like to compete on the show. After sending in a three minute audition video, going to several interviews, and waiting about three months for a response, he finally got to find out.
The season's theme was Millennials vs. Gen X, making this the third time in thirty-three total seasons that the initial tribes were split up by age but only the first time they have been split up specifically by generation. It's no secret that older generations have some negative stereotypes about Millennials being lazy and entitled, and this season was a chance to prove those ideas wrong. "It added another level to the game knowing that we are representing our entire generation on national TV," Wahl admits. The competitors—Millennials and Gen X alike—were anything but lazy. Wahl lost 20 pounds in the span of 34 days and had to get used to limited food sources and sleep. He recalls that even simple tasks like walking became exhausting, and that the first night of the show, when it stormed, was one of the longest nights of his life.
One of the more humorous stories from his time on the show was when a crab started crawling on him while he slept. David Wright, mistaking it for a snake, started poking it with a stick until Wahl woke up and kicked it off himself. Once they realized it was a crab, Ken McNickle managed to catch it so they could eat it for breakfast later that morning.
Though the victory and million dollars unanimously went to Millennial competitor Adam Klein, Wahl made it very far into the season, believing his age may have hurt his chances of winning but helped him form better alliances, something critical to success on the show. "The challenges were larger than life in person and the people, for the most part, were genuine people," he notes.
Once filming was finished, Wahl had to finish up the work for his English class and then prepare for his first year at Ohio State. He is now in his second semester and is involved with the religious student organization Ration Christi as well as the OSU version of Survivor, called Survivor: Time and Change. He is also a member of International Affairs Scholars, and though he may no longer have to compete with other tribes and search for food and shelter, his involvement in Scholars does add some excitement to his life. "I have gone on trips to German Village, the Italian festival, the Picasso Art Show, political debates, Community Commitment, and the Toronto trip," he says. "During the trip to Toronto, we went to the Aga Khan museum and the Royal Ontario museum." The main benefit of the program, he believes, is getting to learn about other cultures by actually experiencing them. However, he also adds that Scholars has allowed him to bond with other success-driven students, which made the transition into college much smoother and made the university feel smaller.
Wahl's goals for the future are to continue succeeding in undergraduate courses and eventually go on to grad school or law school.
And no, he didn't watch his season of Survivor all the way through (but he notes that the support he's received from friends, family, and fans has been incredible).
by Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer