For Life University sophomore Mack Beggs, the start of a new academic year and a new wrestling season are fast approaching.
His story of struggle, one that put his name in the national consciousness, debuted this week on September 22 in the ESPN 30-for-30 short “Mack Wrestles” — it’s also available on ESPN3, the network’s online platform. The film chronicles the controversy over Beggs’ competitive career in Texas high school wrestling, as did the recent feature documentary, “Changing The Game”.
ESPN provides a look inside the human side of the news, and of being a transgender teenager who just wants to live and compete.
The 30-minute short focuses mostly on the deeper stories beneath the headlines. It takes a longer look at how the media storm affected Mack’s family and peers and what happened after the white-hot attention cooled.
“It’s kind of hard to see in a sense because of ways it can by interpreted now,” Beggs said in an interview with Outsports two days ahead of the short’s September 22 debut. “At the moment I was going through all of it then it was a blur because I was most focused on what was happening to me. Looking back on it, I saw moment and say ‘That was huge’. I definitely don’t regret any of it though.”
Among those who also make up this story are the grandparents who raised Beggs, a protective, proud grandmother and a loving grandfather still struggling with Begg’s right pronouns.
“He’s getting better,” Beggs said.
There’s also a moving interaction with his proud father, Marco, amid Beggs downplaying his high school state championships because of circumstances in which he had to compete.
Due to Texas University Interscholastic League regulations, since Beggs’ birth certificate said he was “female” he had to compete against girls. There’s a scene where Beggs refutes his dad’s hopes that Mack’s state championship would be acknowledged at his graduation.
“If you had to go against the girls in the girls tournament how would you feel?” Beggs asks his father in the film.
The movie also shows Beggs away from the mat, mainly through the eyes of a best friend. We are also shown Beggs competing as he should, against other boys, and see how he fares after making a Texas boys high school select team, and the difficulties of being on that team.
The transition to college has been a busy one for Beggs. Along with a freshman year of studies at Life University, he has made public appearances for this film and for the “Changing The Game” documentary, including speaking on a panel at the documentary’s debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this past spring.
The attention of the past two years is something Beggs works to downplay, at least on campus. “I kept to myself when I first got to school,” he said. “When meeting friends at first it was like ‘I can’t believe I’m talking to Mack Beggs’ but I’m like ‘Chill, I’m just a regular person and getting through college and life same as anybody.’”
“As the school year went on, that wore off some,” he continued. “People just saw me as ‘just Mack’.”
On the mat, Beggs was delayed by surgery before the start of his freshman year and took a medical redshirt (a delay in his participation). He says under the advice of his college coaches and his high school coach, who is also feature prominently in “Mack Wrestles”, he may redshirt again this season.
However, he has fit into the team early on and was the target of some locker room ribbing for his celebrity. “There’s been sometimes when the crews are following me around and my teammates have jokes, but they know I’m doing for the right reasons.” he said.
“I’ve had teammates ask about things and they wonder if it gets irritating, but I say that I’m just the same me and I have goal for the future,” Beggs said. “Nothing’s changed because my story is out there. More people are paying attention, and if it can change something or help other kids so that they don’t go through what I went through that, this is fine.”
Such is a theme that Beggs says he’ll take with him going forward on both the mat and in life. He says he has a goal to win national championship and make an Olympic team. “Going to the Olympics and being Olympic champion would be huge,” he said.
But while he’ll take a piece of his past forward, he’ll also be leaving it some of it behind.
When asked if “Mack Wrestles” perhaps was a healing point, Beggs answered, “Yes, it’s been a sense of healing and it’s giving me some direction to help become a better activist and a better individual in the future. I never thought I would be in activism this deep, but here I am.”