Esports Champ Gorman Sandburg’s 1st National Title Winner

GALESBURG — Todd Gorman can call himself something no other athlete or team in the history of Carl Sandburg College can.

A national champion.

Gorman, a Knoxville native, won the NJCAA Esports national championship in Hearthstone on Saturday, capping a perfect 11-0 run through the fall season. It’s the first time Sandburg has ever won a national title in any individual or team sport.

“It's kind of wild, to be honest,” said Gorman, 22. “You don't really go in assuming you're going to win and be a champion. It's still kind of baffling to think that I won a national championship. It’s slowly sinking in that I’m the first person at Sandburg to do that.”

Hearthstone is a fast-paced, strategy-based computer card game in which players amass a collection of unique cards to build four decks of 20. Ahead of each one-on-one match, both players can protect one of their decks and ban one of their opponent’s decks. Then they play a best-of-five series. Gorman said he’s played Hearthstone since about 2015, shortly after its release. While Gorman has also been part of multi-player games such as League of Legends with Sandburg’s esports team, he said he prefers the individual aspect of Hearthstone.

“I enjoy team sports and playing with a bunch of other people, but with Hearthstone, I like thinking games and being able to feel like if I win or lose, it's all on my shoulders,” Gorman said. “I like to take that responsibility for myself. It requires a lot of thought. You have to strategize and can't just blindly go in there.”

Gorman went 8-0 in weekly matches during the regular season to qualify for the eight-person playoffs. He swept his quarterfinal opponent from Laramie County 3-0 and survived the semifinals with a 3-2 win over his challenger from Western Technical College. In Saturday’s championship, he earned a 3-0 sweep over the runner-up from Bryant & Stratton. Overall this season, he won 21 of 25 rounds played.

“The whole time, 101 thoughts are going through my head,” Gorman said of the championship match. “I'm trying to think on every aspect. What could I do? What could my opponent do? I’m trying to think of all these what-if-this happens, I-need-to-do-this strategizing. When I saw the winning move and that it's over, I’d won, I slid back in my chair and just kind of stared at my screen blankly for a couple of minutes.”

After gathering himself, Gorman, who played the championship from the comfort of his home, went downstairs to tell his parents, Todd Sr. and Arlene, the news. But first he had to get his dad back for a similar trick he’d pulled the day before.

“I went down and kind of acted somber about it, like, ‘That was a close match, but I lost 3-2,’” Gorman said.

When his dad asked him just how close it was, Gorman finally came clean and told them the good news. They celebrated the championship in the family by ordering takeout for dinner.

Gorman, who was part of Sandburg’s inaugural esports team in 2019 (“I liked the games they were offering, so I figured why not, right?” he said.), has a couple of semesters left before finishing his Associate in Arts. He plans to go on to a four-year school and study psychology after graduating from Sandburg.

“I played football back in high school, but it never really captured my interest where I wanted to put genuine effort into it. It was a thing I did just because I felt like I had to,” Gorman said. “I think esports being an option is good for anybody who wants to get involved with something and feel like they're part of a group and make some friends out here doing it.”

To learn more about esports at Sandburg, follow @sandburgesports on Twitter and Carl Sandburg College Esports on Facebook.

Todd Gorman
Todd Gorman