Brittne Westerman-Evert, 31, has a relentless resume – collegiate wrestling on scholarship, intense mixed martial arts training and competition and a decade of service in the U.S Navy.
“I’ve always wanted to be the best, and my parents taught me that you have to work hard to be the best. That’s just what I’ve always been used to,” says Westerman-Evert.
When the opportunity arose to compete in wrestling in the 2018 Cornhusker State Games, she lunged at it.
“It brings a lot of people together, through sport and competition, who probably wouldn’t get to meet each other otherwise,” she says.
The Games, an amateur sports tradition in Nebraska since 1985, are an “incredible melting pot of Nebraska geography, demography and sport variety,” says Dave Mlnarik, executive director of the Nebraska Sports Council. “Mixing athletes of all ages, abilities and interests from more than 85 counties in one event creates an inspiring atmosphere,” he says. “It’s a feeling of inclusion that leads more and more people to active endeavors, which is a boost to our overall health.”
Sponsored, in part, by recurring supporter Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, the 2018 Games run from July 20-29 at more than 70 sites in Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding communities. Amateur athletes compete in a wide range of activities – from adventure racing and lacrosse to gymnastics and horseshoe pitching. Wrestling events were held July 14-15, almost a week before opening ceremonies.
For Westerman-Evert, the thrill is truly a family affair – with her husband, Chad, and two of her stepchildren also competing in wrestling events.
“Our house is a wrestling house,” she says. “I’m surprised we don’t have holes in the walls.”
Westerman-Evert’s own path to the Games is a little circuitous – but all-together fascinating. During her 10 years in the Navy, the West Point, Nebraska, native and current Lincoln resident trained in and eventually taught hand-to-hand combat. “I was an anti-terrorism force protection training team member.”
An instructor suggested she try mixed martial arts so she immersed herself in boxing and Muay Thai (Thai boxing). Her first MMA exhibition passed in a blur – until the referee raised her hand in victory.
“I remember the first bell ringing and that was about it. It was a whirlwind,” she says. “My opponent’s coach literally threw in the towel after the second round.”
More fights followed – some wins, some losses. Westerman-Evert expanded her resume to include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Today, she has several Jiu-Jitsu tournament wins under her (blue) belt.
After discharging from the Navy in 2016 with a string of accolades, she earned a criminal justice degree at Midland University in Fremont while wrestling with the Midland Lady Warriors. An Academic All-American, she graduated in December 2017, three months after marrying Chad, a former wrestler at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He and daughter Piper, 8, both placed second at the Cornhusker State Games in folkstyle (scholastic) wrestling. Son Jamison, 13, placed fourth in folkstyle and second in his takedown division.
Unfortunately, Westerman-Evert’s experience didn’t go as planned. A lack of female registrants meant she had to switch to wrestling in the men’s takedown division and went 0-2.
“Honestly, I’m just happy he accepted the matches against me,” says Westerman-Evert.
Her next challenge circles back to her military service: She now is helping veterans find meaningful civilian work as a newly hired workforce coordinator with the Nebraska Department of Labor.
She also is passing on her passion for wrestling, coaching girls in the sport at Competitive Edge Sports in Lincoln.