CYPRESS, Texas (AP) — Mack Beggs won two matches at the Texas state championships Friday. But the larger conflict — over whether a 17-year-old transgender boy should be wrestling girls — remained unsettled.
Beggs' family has said he would rather be wrestling boys. Some girls and their advocates agree, arguing that the testosterone treatments Beggs has been taking while in transition from female to male have made him too strong to wrestle fairly against women. But under the state's governing policy for athletics, students must wrestle against the gender listed on their birth certificates.
Beggs beat Taylor Latham in the 110-pound class Friday. The score was 18-7.
It was a match Latham's mother didn't want to happen. Her daughter, she said, was wrestling someone whose body was chemically toned for strength.
"I wanted her to forfeit as a protective mom," Lisa Latham said. "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."
At match's end Beggs shook hands with Latham before pointing high in the stands to cheering fans wearing the colors of his school, Euless Trinity. He celebrated for a few seconds. Then Beggs and his grandmother, led by his coach, jogged across the mats and into an area restricted to athletes and coaches.
While many cheered Beggs, others said the match was unfair. Patti Overstreet, a self-described wrestling parent, left her seat shouting, "that's cheating" and "big cheater!"
"Look at how beefed up she is," Overstreet said, referring to Beggs. "It's because she's taking an enhancement. Whether she's a boy, girl, wants to be purple or blue it doesn't matter. When you're using a drug and you're 10 times stronger than the person you're wrestling because of that drug that (shouldn't be) allowed."
Later Beggs beat Mya Engert 12-4 to push his record to 54-0 and leave him two victories away from a state title. Beggs got a bloody nose during that match and had to stuff gauze up his right nostril to stop the bleeding. It didn't slow him down much as he added several points after that to capture another decisive win.
Beggs hugged Engert and pumped his fist in the air after the win before darting off the mat. Engert was weeping as she walked away, and her coach shooed reporters from the area with a stern: "No comment."
Beggs will resume competition in the semifinals on Saturday morning.
The controversy over Beggs' participation in the women's sport comes at a crucial moment, as the public and politicians debate how they should react to the growing belief that gender is fluid. Just this week, the Trump administration announced an end to federal protections which allowed transgender students to use facilities based on their gender identity, leaving states and school districts to determine their own policies.
And in Texas, lawmakers are considering a bill similar to the controversial HB2, a law in North Carolina that prompted the NBA to move this year's All-Star game out of that state. If passed, the Texas version, called SB6, would require transgender people to use the bathroom of their "biological sex."
As Beggs arrived for weigh-in on Friday morning, several girls excitedly ran up and embraced him as he smiled and laughed. Soon after that he pulled a gray hoodie down so low that it all but obscured his shock of bright blond hair. Standing in line among a sea of girls, he gnawed the nails of his left hand aggressively, perhaps nervous about the match — or the controversy surrounding it.
The University Interscholastic League, which oversees athletics in Texas public schools, enacted the birth certificate policy on Aug. 1.
Attorney Jim Baudhuin tried and failed to get injunctions before both the district and regional meets to prevent Beggs from competing while he transitions. He told The Associated Press earlier this week that he doesn't blame Beggs for the situation, but faults the UIL.
"The more I learn about this, the more I realize that she's just trying to live her life and her family is, too," Baudhuin said of Beggs. "She's being forced into that position. Who knows, through discovery we may find out that's not the case. But every indication is, the way the winds are going now, the blame rests with the UIL and the superintendents."
Despite criticism of the policy, UIL executives don't envision a change.
"Ninety-five percent of the school superintendents in Texas voted for the rule as it was proposed, which was to use birth certificates," UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison said. "So any rule can be reconsidered, but ... given the overwhelming support for that rule, I don't expect it to change anytime soon."
Beggs reached the state tournament after two opponents forfeited at the regional competition amid concerns about the testosterone treatments. Harrison refused to concede that such forfeitures taint the tournament.
"We never like students to avoid the opportunity to compete. That's the whole point of having competitions," he said. "But to answer your question specifically: Do we believe that any accomplishment by an individual or the overall event in itself is somehow tainted or painted in a negative light because a student may choose to forfeit? No we do not."