“MACK WRESTLES — Mack Beggs Tells His Story

“MACK WRESTLES”

Mack Beggs Tells His Story

Amos Lassen

Transgender wrestler Mack Beggs broke records and changed history by winning the Texas state title two years in a row. Now with high school ending and college on the horizon, the sports champion, national activist, and high school hero must face with what comes next. He was tired of news articles telling his story. So when ESPN Films contacted him two years ago to shoot a documentary about his experience, he thought it would be a great chance to tell his story for himself.

The film, “Mack Wrestles,” premiered recently at the 2019 SXSW Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas. It has a great deal to say especially insights that been left out of other news articles. Even though Beggs grew up as an active and happy tomboy, in grade school he began cutting himself. He told his grandmother that it made him feel better, but he couldn’t explain why. He explains that he didn’t know who to relate to or how to talk to his grandparents about it. His grandmother was afraid that he would one day kill himself. But then, when Mack started wrestling in ninth grade, he just stopped.

At the time, his grandmother told Beggs’ wrestling coach, “I don’t know what happened, but I know you saved his life, because he wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t started wrestling.” The coach told her, “Every once in a while a wrestler comes along and it defines who they are and what they are. They buy into it as a way of life.”

Beggs never had anybody that was negative towards him after finding this new outlet to channel a lot of the anxiety and hatred and depression he had once felt and he explains that  wrestling gave him a purpose to look at life in a whole different way and to take it on and not sit back and do nothing about it.

Texas is one of nine U.S. states who uses birth certificates to determine the gender of student athletes, Beggs was forced to wrestle girls rather than boys.

And because Beggs had been so public about his transition by sharing videos of his progress on social media, sports families began buzzing about it every time he had a wrestling tournament. At the 2017 regional state tournament, one of his female competitors refused to wrestle him at her parent’s suggestion. As he advanced to the state championship, a parent filed an injunction to stop him from competing.

A state law said that because Beggs’ medication was being legally issued by a physician, it wasn’t the same as taking “performance enhancing drugs” and he couldn’t be disqualified for it. Hormone replacement therapy is not the same as taking “performance enhancing drugs” anyway. Not all trans patients take literal steroids, and experts question the competitive advantage given to those who do.

Mack won the state championship and heard cheers and boos. He says he couldn’t hear the boos really… just noise. Afterwards, he was rushed off to the locker room and  the stadium floor filled with cameras and journalists. Beggs said that it didn’t even feel like a celebration.

By this point, Beggs’ story had been covered by numerous press outlets, including FOX News and international media. He says that he did not mind the attention. Mack doesn’t feel like he deserved the championship titles.

Shortly after graduating, Mack qualified for the USA Men’s National Team alongside other college-aged, Olympic-level competitors. But when his work commitments conflicted against his team practice schedule, he was dropped from the team and this disappointed him.  Nonetheless, Mack has begun wrestling at Life University in Marietta, Georgia. He’s studying health science and coaching, hoping to one day become a wrestling coach. He also wrestles for the school, this time with other men.

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