Out of nearly 12 million people to sign up for ESPN’s Bracket Challenge, one Illinois sixth grader claimed an improbable victory after the Duke Blue Devils were crowned national champions Monday night.
Sam Holtz, a 12-year-old from Lake Zurich who used his father’s email address to sign up for the challenge, was tied for second-place among 11.57 million entries before Duke bested Wisconsin. Unlike many participants in office pools every year, Holtz had a perfect Final Four, naming Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Michigan State to make it through to the NCAA tournament’s final weekend.
Holtz then got a little daring, and correctly picked Wisconsin to eliminate previously undefeated Kentucky for a date with the Blue Devils in the title game.
"To be honest, I didn't believe it at first when Sam told me," Butch Holtz, Sam's father, said to the Chicago Tribune. "Sam's the kind of kid who's always looking at the newspaper, and comparing and analyzing stats as soon as he gets up every morning."
But Sam stressed in a radio interview Tuesday that there was very little strategy in his picks, and the Tribune reported that 10 brackets were filed under his father’s ESPN username. He also said his favorite sport is baseball.
“In the beginning I just did it for fun like bragging rights, who can have the best bracket of my friends,” Holtz told WGN Radio, “but I never thought that I would make it this far.”
Holtz’s name, along with the other entrants who finished in the top one percent, will be entered in a drawing for the grand prizes, including a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to the 2015 Maui Invitational, college basketball’s first major tournament next season.
Technically, Sam can’t claim the prize since he is under the age of 18, but he did use his father’s account to win. Sam told WGN Radio that he is supposed to appear on ESPN later Tuesday, but that he has yet to hear from the network.