WEST LAFAYETTE — Aric Kotarski has never taken an official IQ test, but rest assured, he knows more than he’s letting on.
Is he a genius? Well, it depends on how one looks at things.
He is an official ESPN “Bracket Genius.”
Kotarski, 21, is a 2014 New Palestine High School graduate. He along with two other classmates from Purdue University won over $107,000 during a recent general knowledge trivia contest called “Bracket Genius,” which coincided with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Kotarski was a top-10 student at New Palestine and is now a junior in college studying applied statistics hoping to get into the field of sports as an analytics expert once he graduates.
He is also part of an extracurricular sports analytic club where members were asked by ESPN officials to get a team together to be a part of the recent 16-team “Bracket Genius” championship in Chicago.
Students from Purdue took part in the two-day tournament, which aired on ESPN in early April when the Boilermakers made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Kotarski and teammates Kristen Mori and Andy Eggert battled against other teams and made it all the way to the championship round where they defeated a team from Gonzaga, 36-33, to win $100,000 and another $7,500 in bonus money.
The Purdue University team will split the money three ways. The fact they won is still a bit surreal, Kotarski said.
“We didn’t have any intention of winning,” he said. “It was just going to be a fun time.”
Kotarski is not sure how much he’ll retain after taxes, but he knows what he plans to do with the money. He plans to put it in the bank.
“I don’t have any real need for it right now,” he said.
Kotarski will more than likely end up using the funds to travel when he graduates or for a rainy day down the road.
Regardless, he feels pretty fortunate to have been a part of the team and to win a large amount of money. Yet, he almost missed out on the adventure altogether.
Kotarski was originally the first alternate on the trivia team, but the third team member had a presentation to give at Purdue during the taping of the contest, in late March, and had to drop out.
It opened up a spot for Kotarski to go, and it’s a good thing he did.
Kotarski ended up answering several history trivia questions to help the team win. The players answered jeopardy-like questions earning a set amount of points for correct answers.
The fact they won the money didn’t really sink in until the they were driving back to campus, Kotarski said.
“We were all kind of in shock,” he said.
The team had to sign a contract and wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, including their parents, they had won the money until the show aired in early April.
Tammy Kotarski, Aric’s mother was caught by surprise when she, her husband Al Kotarski, other family members and friends gathered to watch the show.
She thought for certain the team from Wisconsin, which sent a quiz bowl team, was going to win it. But, when the Purdue team got to the finals, she knew they had a real chance.
“We’re all sitting there watching it and saying, ‘they might actually pull this out,’” she said. “When they won, we went nuts.”
Kotarski was at Purdue watching the show too, texting his parents, who at the same time welcomed home their daughter, Emily Kotarski, who plays softball at New Palestine High School.
She happened to hit a home run that same night, but didn’t tell the family until after they had calmed down from jumping about, being happy for their son.
While her daughter felt her news was anticlimactic compared to winning more than $100,000, it was a good night all the way around, Tammy said.