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Court denies WIAA's appeal in case of state champion wrestler Hayden Halter

Court denies WIAA's appeal in case of state champion wrestler Hayden Halter

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Waterford’s Hayden Halter celebrates his win over Pulaski’s Cole Gille in the Division 1 120-pound state championship match at the Kohl Center in Madison on Feb. 23, 2019.

RACINE — Hayden Halter’s state wrestling championship isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

The Wisconsin District 2 Court of Appeals on Monday denied the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s appeal of a ruling that allowed the Waterford High School sophomore to wrestle in the postseason, where he won his second straight state title at Madison.

The case will go back to the Racine County Circuit Court, which heard the case and made the original decision, according to Jeremy Levinson, the Halter family’s attorney.

“Given that the season is over, it’s not clear what (the court) will do,” Levinson said. “I have been attempting to draw their attention to shaking hands and calling it a day and moving on. We shall see.”

Halter’s family took the WIAA to court after Halter was suspended following the Southern Lakes Conference tournament on Feb. 2. During the 120-pound championship match, Halter questioned an official’s decision then flexed his arms after he won. His actions netted him two unsportsmanlike conduct calls, making him ineligible to wrestle at the Division 1 regional meet on Feb. 9.

Under WIAA rules, an athlete is suspended for one match after two unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Appeals to the calls can be made at the tournament, but not after it is over. Halter appealed after the match but the calls were sustained.

Waterford wrestling coach Tom Fitzpatrick then entered Halter in a junior varsity meet, where he sat out. But the WIAA did not accept that as properly serving the suspension. So the Halters filed a suit against the WIAA.

After a hearing on Friday, Feb. 8, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Michael Piontek issued an injunction that blocked the WIAA’s suspension and cleared Halter to wrestle at regionals, sectionals and state.

He finished the season 41-6, beating Pulaski’s Cole Gille 8-3 for the state championship. Halter also won the 106-pound Division 1 championship in 2018 as a freshman wrestling for Burlington High School.

The WIAA appealed the Piontek’s decision on Feb. 21. A successful appeal could have meant Halter losing his gold medal from this season.

“We are beyond excited and feel like a small weight has been lifted,” Halter’s mother, Brynn, said on Monday. “We’ve thought about this day for the past month and a half and we’re elated this all worked out for Hayden.

“We’re just a normal, hardworking family raising four kids. We’re no different then the next family. We have our ups, downs, struggles, and celebrations,” she added. “I think the main thing looking back at when this all started with Hayden is if you feel like you’ve been wronged and not listened to because you’re held to a different standard, you need to speak up and keep fighting.”

WIAA Deputy Director Wade Labecki declined to comment on the decision and said that the WIAA’s focus was elsewhere.

“We have the WIAA membership’s Annual Meeting this week along with the WIAA Board of Control meeting with a discussion and vote on the state-wide football only conference realignment,” Labecki said. “So our focus at this time is focused on the membership’s business.”


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RACINE — Against the wishes of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, Waterford High School sophomore Hayden Halter will get a chance to defend his state wrestling championship.

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