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Northwood Esports brings home two national titles

April 25, 2023

Northwood Esports won two national titles over the weekend.

“On Sunday, the Northwood University Overwatch and Counter-Strike teams secured major victories for our esports program,” stated Cody Elsen, Northwood Esports coach and program director. “The Varsity Overwatch team became the 2023 National Champions after defeating Illinois State University 4-1 on Sunday. Northwood’s Counter-Strike team became the 2023 North American Champions after defeating Drexel University 3-0.”

The Northwood Overwatch team finished the regular season with a record of 12-0 and group stages with a record of 8-0, earning the No. 1 ranking and seed in the 16-team National Championship bracket. Key wins over Boise State University, Maryville University and The University of St. Thomas resulted in the Timberwolves facing Illinois State University in the national championship game. Northwood took the series 4-1, becoming the 2023 National Champions. They were led by juniors Christopher “CJAY” Smith and Donovan “Cowman” Koch.

This is the first national title for Northwood Overwatch, as the Timberwolves finished No. 2 in 2021 and 2022.

In the summer of 2022, Northwood expanded the Esports Program by building a Counter-Strike roster. The newly-built roster got off to a hot start this year and never stopped, culminating in the 2023 North American Collegiate Counter-Strike Championship win.

The Timberwolves finished the regular season with a 12-0 record and blazed through the playoff bracket. Northwood had key wins in the playoff bracket against the University of Florida, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and Clemson University. In the North American Championship, the Timberwolves played the nearly unbeatable Drexel University and Northwood came out on top with a 3-0 series win. The Counter-Strike team was led by Connor “TiCx” Hartmon-Birge, a transfer from Virginia Tech, and James “SolGoat” Wallace, a transfer from the University of Colorado Boulder.

“I am so proud of the hard work that the teams put in, they truly deserved these championships and played to near perfection,” Elsen stated. “Both of these teams know how to win but also have a ton of fun doing so. These two titles continue to add to the Northwood Esports dynasty.”

Northwood Esports has earned multiple national titles and two world championships (one in Valorant, the other in Rocket League). Esports is an umbrella for numerous competitive games, similar to how a university’s athletics department is an umbrella to numerous traditional competitive sports. So Valorant and Rocket League are to an esports program what baseball and soccer are to a university’s athletics program.

“This weekend was another one for the books,” Elsen noted. “It was bittersweet, however, as Sunday marked the last collegiate esports competition for Christopher “CJAY” Smith.”

After years of hard work, Smith signed a contract to turn professional and play for the Los Angeles Valiant franchise in the Overwatch League. The league consists of the top 100 players on the planet.

“Christopher added so much value and drive to the team, he will be greatly missed. Although it is sad to see him go, watching one of your players achieve a dream is something special. We wish him the best and look forward to watching his career blossom,” Elsen noted. ”You can watch CJAY in action when the 2023 Overwatch League season beings next month!”

Last year, Northwood Esports had another player — Landon McGee — sign to play with the London Spitfire in the professional Overwatch League.

Regarding Rocket League, Northwood had two teams recently earn the chance to represent the United States in the 2023 Collegiate Rocket League World Championship Series in Dallas, Texas. 

For more information about Northwood Esports, visit https://esports.northwood.edu/.

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