Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) employee Josh Ihnen “stumbled” into a new athletic passion five years ago.

“I graduated from college in 2013,” Ihnen said. “I was a wrestler in college and wrestled my whole life. I was kind of bored not competing in something.”

Then, Ihnen and a friend went to a local grappling tournament and were asked by a few other competitors if they were interested in trying jiu-jitsu.

“I said, ‘sure, I’ll try it out,’” Ihnen said. “Now, I’m still training with one of those guys.”

Ihnen has trained at several jiu-jitsu schools in Omaha. His current school is competition-oriented. Recently, he traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Master World Championships.

“They put on this huge expo,” Ihnen said. “It’s four days and there’s 20-something mats all going at the same time. There’s thousands and thousands of people.”

The tournament separated competitors based on their age, weight and belt level, which is determined by a competitor’s years of experience. Ihnen, who recently turned 30, competed in the Master 1/Male/Purple Belt/Super-Heavy bracket.

He won his bracket without giving up a single point. Best of all, Ihnen has had fun while continuing his athletic career.

“For anybody that’s been an athlete their whole life, you just have that competitive drive, and sometimes it’s hard to find outlets for that,” Ihnen said. “For me, it was nice to find an outlet that related to the sport I had been competing in.”

Ihnen said many of the traits competitors need to be successful in their sport also apply in the workplace.

“You have to know how to work hard and put in the time and the practice to become good at something,” Ihnen said. “It’s the same at work. Most people aren’t going to just come into a job and be great at it. You have to work at it and gain experience and keep bettering yourself.”

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