Mack Beggs, a transgender 18-year-old, was met with both boos and cheers on Saturday when he took down Chelsea Sanchez to win his second girls’ state wrestling title in Texas.
Although the Euless Trinity High School senior —who identifies as male — has begged to wrestle against other boys, a Texas’ University of Interscholastic League rules require athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate. So, Beggs has been wrestling girls, and winning.
Saturday marked his second state win in the girls’ Class 6A 110-pound division.
“He has so much respect for all the girls he wrestles,” Beggs’ mother, Angela McNew, told the Associated Press. “People think Mack has been beating up on girls … The girls he wrestles with, they are tough. It has more to do with skill and discipline than strength.”
Beggs is currently transitioning from female to male and take low-doses of testosterone, according to the AP. In video footage from the match, there’s a mixed reaction from the crowd as the referee held up Beggs’ hand to declare him the winner — both boos and praise.
“I’ve trained too hard for haters to put me down. I’ve worked to hard for that,” he told the Star-Telegram after the match. “I’ve worked day in and day out. I’ve been through too much bulls— for anyone to put me down. I went into this match feeling really good.”
Beggs began identifying as male six years ago and started his medical treatment to physically transition during his freshman year of high school.
“When I’m wrestling, I’m at my best. I just love the sport,” he told PEOPLE last year. “I put so many hours into it, all of my time and effort, so to come out on top — I’m just so grateful.”
— Matt Howerton (@HowertonNews) February 24, 2018
Last season, two wrestlers forfeited in the regional tournament, fearing that they’d be injured in a match against Beggs, according to the AP. This season, only one girl refused to wrestle Beggs, despite pleas from the opposing coach and teammates.
Beggs’ title match was similar to that of last year’s as he beat Sanchez then too, and endured boos from the crowd. Along with the criticism, Beggs has drawn support from social media users everywhere.
“This isn’t his fault it’s the states fault for not letting a trans man compete in the men’s division oh well Mary blame the school board not the student, it’s not his fault he’s being discriminated against,” one person wrote in a Facebook post.
Another Facebook user condemned the rule, which was approved in 2016.
“This is why the insistence on the ‘gender listed on the birth certificate’ is so patently ridiculous,” the user lamented. “Setting aside for a moment that gender isn’t binary and birth certificates don’t take that into account (yet, we’re fighting). This young man doesn’t *want* to compete against girls.”