Mack Beggs works hard to maintain his status as an undefeated high school wrestler. On Saturday, his work paid off.
The Texas wrestler, who represents Euless Trinity, won two state wrestling matches, advancing to the state championship. Beggs' win isn't what has people buzzing, though. The transgender teen is being forced to compete with girls. Parents of Beggs' competition aren't happy about the decision, and they're not shy about addressing it.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Beggs' teammates cheered the young wrestler on during his match. Competitors supporters met their excitement with a handful of boos. The paper made it clear that Beggs' fans far exceeded the haters.
According to ESPN, some parents don't feel it's fair that Beggs is competing with girls. Lisa Latham, whose daughter faced off with Beggs during the meet, said she tried to convince her to back out. Her efforts were futile and, as predicted, Beggs won.
"I wanted her to forfeit as a protective mom," Latham told ESPN. "She's a fighter. She's not a quitter. She's a senior. She's fought for the last three years to get here. She was going to see it through even though I wasn't sharing the same opinion."
Beggs is not oblivious to the controversy. On Feb. 19 — one week before his big wrestling meet — the teen took to Facebook to address the drama. He wrote that he was "sick and disgusted" by the intolerance of parents and coaches. He made sure to note that he and his competitors "just want to WRESTLE," adding that the conflict was detracting from the experience.
While some feel Beggs' strength puts him at an advantage, his fight extends beyond the mat. Beggs never asked to wrestle girls. He has to because of an archaic and discriminatory Texas policy passed in 2016. The Washington Post reports that close to 95 percent of Texas superintendents voted to add the amendment to the University Interscholastic League (UIL) constitution. It forces public school athletes to compete as the gender listed on their birth certificate, regardless of how they identify.
Critics told the Dallas Morning News the bill was "horrible policy." Supporters maintained that it wasn't meant to be discriminatory, but to avoid giving competitors a leg up on one another. As the opposition predicted, that backward thinking has backfired.
The Associated Press reports that several girls set to take on Beggs before this weekend's UIL match forfeited. The wrestlers feared facing off with Beggs could result in injury and didn't want to risk it.
Beggs has made no mention of plans to challenge the amendment to UIL’s constitution. Even if he did, UIL director Jamey Harrison doesn’t believe change is on the horizon.
“Ninety-five percent of the school superintendents in Texas voted for the rule as it was proposed, which was to use birth certificates,” Harrison told AP. “So any rule can be reconsidered but...given the overwhelming support for that rule, I don’t expect it to change any time soon.”