Fallbrook natives sweep trivia league three seasons in a row

The HMS Squanch trivia team includes, from left, Amelia Pludow, Stephen Kleppinger, Nitin Udpa, Andrew Heiberg, Erik Carr, and Joe Grimshaw.

There are few times when being a know-it-all comes in handy, but when it comes to trivia, having the most knowledge of seemingly trivial factoids is crucial to be the best.

Two Fallbrook natives, Erik Carr and Joe Grimshaw, along with the rest of their trivia team, have shown just how important it is to trust friends, know the right stuff, and play the odds. Carr, Grimshaw, and the HMS Squanch crew have managed to win the Sunset Trivia League Championship three times consecutively.

“It’s pretty insane,” said Chris Angel, Sunset Trivia operations manager. “We have never had a team win two times, let alone twice back to back and three times consecutively.”

Angel and Sunset Trivia owner Brian Rubinstein compile trivia questions weekly, and also swap out trivia questions with an East Coast trivia team to keep their questions fresh. In addition, both Rubinstein and Angel keep backlogs of previously-asked questions to insure that league players aren’t asked the same question twice.

“We need to keep that backlog because some of the teams have been playing with us for eight to nine years, when [Rubinstein] started the company,” said Angel.

With this much homework and dedication to question crafting, it truly was a wonder that the HMS Squanch team was able to climb to the top of the tournament’s ranks and clinch the championship title three tournaments in a row.

According to Carr, who graduated with Grimshaw from Fallbrook High in 2004, the HMS Squanch team is run like a meritocracy, which is why the team has done so well.

“We trust the experts,” said Carr. “That’s when real faith comes in.”

Within the three championships, 11 people rotated within the team to aid in the win. The only two members who were present for all three victories were Grimshaw and Carr.

“We don’t prepare for trivia night; we go in with the knowledge that we know,” said Grimshaw.

Within a regular trivia night, teams go through six regular rounds, with each containing three questions each from differing categories such as movies, history, science, and pop culture. There are three rounds per half, plus a halftime section, and two final questions.

Each regular round contains a different predetermined set of point values, with each point value only used once within each round. Halftime section contains four different lists of five items related to different categories, and teams have to fill the lists with as many correct answers as possible.

The two final questions of differing categories are the only ones in which teams can lose points for wrong answers. Teams can wager anywhere from zero to 10 points on each question.

Teams with the highest score at the end of play win. While this may seem like a laid back way to spend time with friends, as the teams get closer to semifinals, the competition gets fierce.

“Only the top 60 teams from San Diego County get to enter the semifinals,” said Angel.

From the semifinals, only 20 teams enter the finals for a chance to claim the title of champion and earn over $1,000.

With those stakes, it’s no wonder that some consider this a professional hobby. For others, it’s a chance to really let their knowledge shine.

“My trivia team is my outlet,” said Carr. “Each team is made up of people you trust.”

Carr’s expertise happens to be the movies category.

“I can tell you any Oscar’s Best Picture winner from 1927/28 until now,” he said. “We used to have Oscar parties; I know movies pretty well.”

Grimshaw’s expertise is sports; when he was a senior at Fallbrook High, Grimshaw was the high school news correspondent. Because of that, he looked up many factoids about football, which may have helped him become the expert that the HMS Squanch needed.

“One trivia question I was asked sticks out,” he said. “We were asked who won the first MVP of the NBA, and I knew that it was Bob Pettit for the St. Louis Hawks. I don’t know where that came from, but I was pretty proud of that answer.”

To win the championship was a great honor for the team, said Grimshaw.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said. “I’ve been playing trivia for about six years and for about 14 to 15 seasons, and we have only broken through these past three seasons.”

The camaraderie offered by trivia night has led the HMS Squanch to victory, and will continue to pull the team together.

“Trivia night gathers a whole bunch of different people,” said Grimshaw. “I invite people all the time to play. Basically everyone always says, no matter what, that it’s a fun night out, and that they would do it again. It’s a good way to hang out with your friends on a random weeknight, and a way to schedule in fun in our extra busy lives.

Carr said this is a chance for folks to see how valuable their knowledge can truly be.

“People always think they won’t be any good at trivia, and then they realize that they are able to add to the team,” he said. “For me, playing trivia was the validation I needed for having been an encyclopedia growing up.”

Season 14 of the Sunset Trivia tournament began June 25, and will run until November. Teams can still register. For more information, find Sunset Trivia on Facebook or go to www.sunsettrivia.com.

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