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
Lexile

A sixth-grade boy from suburban Chicago completed a near-perfect bracket predicting the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It was good enough to finish 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. It is a $20,000 gift card and a trip to the Maui Invitational basketball tournament in Hawaii. He is ineligible because he's 12 years old. 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. 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. He 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?

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COMMENTS (148)
  • LucasH-3
    4/10/2015 - 03:43 p.m.

    A sixth grade boy from a suburban area in Chicago nearly picked a perfect bracket for the Division 1 men's college basketball tournament, otherwise known as march madness. The odds of picking a perfect bracket are nearly impossible, but this boy came very close. He picked the finals correct, and had duke beating Wisconsin. He is a 12 year old boy named Sam Holtz. He says that there was just some luck, and he picked the teams to win based off of who he felt had the best players.

  • ThomasC-2
    4/10/2015 - 03:51 p.m.

    Ncaa basketball is nothing new, and nither is the ESPN bracket contest that the company pulls every year. March madness is defiantly a great contest, and the prize of 2,000 dollars is very worthy of bragging rights. The only problem with this year's winner is that he is a 12 year old that beat all of the odds of losing and won against the best experts in the entire game. This called for a prize, the 12 year old could not pick up the 2,000 dollar prize, but ESPN is having fun creating a prize for the 12 year old.They will probably send him on a trip to Disney and the world wide sports hotel and resort in orlando florida. This would be a amazing trip in my opinion, especially if you get VIP passes to skip the line at Disney world.

  • HannahH-1
    4/10/2015 - 04:03 p.m.

    Sam Holtz is a six grader from a suburban town near Chicago. He tied for first place in the annual ESPN contest, in which participants create a bracket for the NCAA games. Even though he tied for first, Holtz was unable to clean the top prize because of his age. The contest requires all participants to be age 18 or older. If I was him I would've been really irritated by the decision that I was not able to win the check and the money. However I do think that it is very cool that someone so young was able to predict the games so accurately.

  • EthanY-1
    4/10/2015 - 04:42 p.m.

    This article is about Sam Holtz, a sixth grader from Hawthorne Woods. He tied for 1 place for the NCAA Mens basketball tournament. He is ineligible to receive the $20,000 gift card and a trip to Maui because he is only 12 years old. You have to be 18 years old. I like this article. I would be so mad if iwas him and wasn't old enough to win the prize.

  • ksadat-5
    4/10/2015 - 07:01 p.m.

    Sam Holtz, a sixth grader, won the first prize for the bracket predicting challenge. The first place winner gets a $20,000 gift card and receives the opportunity to go to Maui to see the Maui Invitational basketball tournament. Unfortunately, Sam Holtz is only twelve years old. The rules of the challenge state that the recipient must be at least eighteen years old. Even though Sam won, he will not actually win anything.

    I think that this is very unfair. Sam Holtz won the bracket predicting challenge, but he is too young to receive his prize. I think that this brings up the topic of age hierarchy and how it is wrong and unfair.

  • LucasF-1
    4/10/2015 - 09:18 p.m.

    Every year ESPN does a challenge for March Madness. People create brackets to predict games and their outcomes. A 6th grader recently won the most accurate bracket. He was from Chicago and was the best of millions of entries. I think it is cool such a young kid won the contest. I hope sepne eventually has a perfect bracket.

  • CarsonP-2
    4/10/2015 - 09:55 p.m.

    A 12 year old tied for first place in the NCAA bracket. He got really lucky and won a whole lot of money. The tournament included 67 games and he only missed 6.

  • ZachG-1
    4/10/2015 - 10:42 p.m.

    A twelve year old boy has won the ESPN bracket challenge. Sam Holtz tied for first but, he is illegible to take the reward of a twenty five thousand dollar gift card and a trip to Maui. Holtz still feels accomplished but, he is irritated. Many people are trying to plan a little gift for him. Sam Holtz won the ESPN bracket.

    Wow, i feel so bad that he didn't win. The boy picked all of the teams himself with no help. He deserves the prize.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/10/2015 - 11:01 p.m.

    I think that it was close for the 12-year-old boy to loose in the basketball tournament which is very close for the 12-year-old boy to loose in the game, but it became a tie which is really cool because they got a tie with the other team. Well if the 12-year-old almost lost in the game, I think that the boy needs more practice on shooting also defense.

  • CAKhyasia-Cas
    4/11/2015 - 01:35 p.m.

    The NCAA is full of teams and the brackets are the most famous way and the most entertaining in march madness. Everyone knows it is very unlikely to get the perfect bracket, especially from a 12 year old. When I read about the part when he was ineligible to get the reward they were offering it was like wow he at least deserved something. They are planning some type of reward for him. It is pretty cool to at least come close to the bracket. If you watch and study basketball and the players you to can have a bracket that makes sense.

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