Sixth Grader Wins ESPN's Bracket Challenge, Donates XBox to Charity
Thanks to Duke University's win in the NCAA men's basketball tournament final over the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 12-year-old Sam Holtz, a 6th grader at Lake Zurich (Ill.) Middle School North, finished tied for first in ESPN.com's Bracket Challenge, besting 11.57 million other entrants, according to the Pioneer Press.
Unfortunately, he was ineligible for the grand prize—a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to the 2015 Maui Invitational, to be randomly awarded to a bracket that finished in the top 1 percent of entrants—because he was under the age of 18. (He entered the contest using his father's email address.) Once Best Buy heard about the story, though, the company decided to award him a $1,000 gift card for his accomplishment.
On Thursday, Sam took a trip to his local Best Buy to purchase two Xbox One video game systems—one for him, and one for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
"I decided to donate one of the XBox One systems to Make-A-Wish because of my cousin Alec," Sam told the Press. "When he was real little, he was in Make-A-Wish, and back then [23 years ago], people granted his wish of going to Disney World. I thought I'd kind of repay them for what they did for my cousin [who survived his illness and is now an adult]."
According to the Daily Herald, Sam incorrectly picked just six of the 63 games, with all of those coming in the round of 64 or round of 32. Starting with the Sweet 16, he nailed every single one of his remaining 15 picks.
"The great thing is that this kid beat all these experts out there," ESPN spokesman Kevin Ota told the paper. "He beat all of our commentators, all these celebrities, all the college experts. That's what makes this so awesome. The prize really is secondary."
What was Sam's secret? There was none.
"There was some luck, and I studied ESPN.com," he told the Herald. "I just picked the teams that I felt had the best players."
That sure worked out better than picking winners based on each team's academics. Those who followed that method this year wound up in the 10.1 percentile on ESPN.com, with nary a single Final Four team intact. That method did correctly predict five of the Elite Eight, though.
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