12-year-old ties for 1st in ESPN bracket challenge Sam Holtz, a sixth-grader from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., poses awith his near-perfect ESPN NCAA men's basketball bracket where he picked Duke to defeat Wisconsin in the finals (AP photos / Thinkstock)
12-year-old ties for 1st in ESPN bracket challenge
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A sixth-grade boy from suburban Chicago completed a near-perfect bracket predicting the NCAA men's basketball tournament, finishing in a tie for first in ESPN's massive annual contest.

Sam Holtz said ESPN officials told him that is he ineligible to claim the top prize a $20,000 gift card and a trip to the Maui Invitational basketball tournament because he's 12 years old and ESPN requires participants to be at least 18.

"I'm irritated," Holtz told the Daily Herald newspaper. "Yes, I'm still proud of my accomplishment, but I'm not happy with the decision."

Finishing with the best bracket does not equal an automatic claim to the prize. ESPN awards the prize through a random draw of the brackets that were among the top 1 percent in the contest about 115,700 this year. Kevin Ota, a spokesman for ESPN Digital Media, said the network is putting together some kind of prize for Holtz.

"We plan to have fun with this," Ota said. "The great thing is that this kid beat all these experts out there."

The tournament includes 67 games and Holtz missed only six. He was perfect picking games played in the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four and out of 11.5 million who entered a bracket on ESPN's website, Sam finished tied for first with 1,830 points after Duke beat Wisconsin 68-63 in the championship game. He entered 10 brackets in the contest.

"There is no secret," said Holtz, who attends Lake Zurich Middle School North. "There was some luck and I studied ESPN.com. I just picked the teams that I felt had the best players."

Critical thinking challenge: What was Sam Holtz's successful strategy?

Assigned 9 times


COMMENTS (31)
  • DD00BASEBALL
    4/13/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    Sam Holtz's succesful strategy was studying and a little bit of luck. all he did was study on espn.com and then he picked the teams he felt had the best players and best chance of winning.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    4/13/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    This is quite impressive that someone, especially a young kid, was able to make his bracket so accurately. I honestly don't follow up on basketball but I'm pretty sure it is quite difficult to make an exact bracket.

  • tyrekb-Che
    4/13/2015 - 01:45 p.m.

    This is amazing that a 12 year old can ties for #1st in a ESPN challenge. you will never think that that would ever happen he must know his sports.

  • makaylar-Che
    4/13/2015 - 01:47 p.m.

    he studied the teams and picked out some of the best players that he saw. Sam was good at picking the teams out and that's a good thing because he won the prize but didn't get it because he was too young to get it but he still getting a prize for picking some of the good teams or players that he picked and he said it was just luck and he was lucky because he did win.

  • dianaz-Che
    4/13/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    I think it's cool how he made a near perfect bracket. It's kind of disappointing though how he couldn't participate because of his age.

  • namelt-Che
    4/13/2015 - 01:53 p.m.

    I think that this is cool for a 12 year old to be In the NCAA bracket. He also finished first in the tournament, and he also got a $20,000 gift card and also a trip to Maui Invitational basketball tournament.

  • tylerr-Che
    4/13/2015 - 01:57 p.m.

    I think that boy got so much talent its not funny to mess with him its special that a boy that age can do what he can do and when he get older he is going to get better.

  • amandam-Koc
    4/13/2015 - 02:01 p.m.

    "There is no secret," said Holtz, who attends Lake Zurich Middle School North. "There was some luck and I studied ESPN.com. I just picked the teams that I felt had the best players."
    His strategy was to get the time that he felt that was going to be the best one, and the time that he picked was realy the best one, was a surprise for him.

  • SpencerR-2
    4/13/2015 - 10:35 p.m.

    This article is about a sixth grade boy who entered a contest displaying a nearly perfect basketball bracket. This mainly out of luck and not skill. You dont have to be an expert to win. This contest claimed that he cant claim the prize because he is 12 years old and not yet 18 years old! He was sort of mad because he had tied for first but he was still happy with his accomplishment.

    This article was interesting because I had never seen anyone tie for 1st place ESPECIALLY a 12 year old!

  • austinw-Goo
    4/14/2015 - 11:06 a.m.

    Sam Holtz successful strategy was practice and picking the team that he thought would be best for him to be in. Practice always makes perfect, but if you don't pratice for something that you said you wanted to do then why do it.

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