Transgender teenager Mack Beggs is a Texas state wrestling champion.
The 17-year-old junior at Trinity High in Euless, Texas, became the first transgender participant to win a Class 6A girls’ state championship in Texas high school wrestling on Saturday — making him the University of Interscholastic League’s first transgender boy to win a state wrestling title.
“When I’m wrestling, I’m at my best. I just love the sport,” Mack tells PEOPLE. “I put so many hours into it, all of my time and effort, so to come out on top — I’m just so grateful.”
Mack began identifying as a male five years ago and started his medical treatment to physically transition from female to male during his freshman year of high school. The teen is now taking testosterone injections.
Although he identifies as a boy, UIL state rules prevent Mack from competing in the boys’ division. Last month, parents of a daughter who had wrestled against Beggs announced they were suing the UIL over his participation in the girls’ division, reports the Washington Post.
Mack’s 12-2 victory against Chelsea Sanchez in the 110-pound classification wasn’t without controversy. As the timer counted down to zero inside Houston’s Berry Center sports complex, ending the final round of the match, the loud crowd was inherently divided — some cheered, others booed.
“But the positivity has increased over the years,” says Mack. “At that moment, I was on top of the world — it’s one of my favorite moments in my life so far.
“I was overwhelmed by the support! Since it hasn’t always been like that, you know?” he added.
The UIL, which oversees public high school athletics, says that wrestlers can only compete against their own gender — and that gender must appear on the student’s birth certificate. This rule could be changed when the UIL council meets in June.
“This law we have in place, it needs to change!” says Mack. “I’m not the only kid in Texas to come out.
“I just hope that by speaking out I can help other trans athletes who are struggling coming out to their coaches, I want them to know they aren’t alone.”
Mack’s win came only days after President Trump announced his new bathroom bill rolling back protections for transgender children.
“I honestly don’t even know why this is an issue,” says Mack. “We aren’t the issue, the problem here. We’re not a problem. All we want to do is use the bathroom: Why is that being made so difficult?”
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Despite uproar over the “bathroom bill” — and in Mack’s own community over his participation in the girls’ division — the teen says he is “overwhelmed” by the support he’s received from his friends and teachers.
“It’s a testament to how far we’ve come,” he says. “But we still have a lot to do.”