RACINE — The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has filed a petition seeking permission to appeal the court decision that allowed Waterford High School sophomore Hayden Halter to resume wrestling after he was suspended for two controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
That news came out Tuesday, one day after Wade Labecki, WIAA’s deputy director, said the WIAA was focused on state tournaments and deferred questions about an appeal.
The appeal follows concerns voiced by the WIAA and state referees that courts intervening in high school sports matters could have problematic effects on athletics statewide. If the right to appeal is granted, it could throw into question the results of the Division 1 120-pound state wrestling championship that Halter won Saturday.
After Halter’s family took the WIAA to court, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Michael Piontek issued an injunction on Feb. 8 that blocked the WIAA’s suspension just days after it was issued. During the Southern Lakes Conference meet on Feb. 2, Halter questioned an official’s decision during the match and flexed his arms after he won, each instance netting an unsportsmanlike conduct call.
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.
Because Halter’s next match would have been the regional tournament, he would have been blocked from individual competition for the rest of the season in his pursuit of a second consecutive state title.
Any victories Halter obtained during his would-be suspension could be revoked if the WIAA succeeds in its appeal.
“We’ll let the appeal speak for itself,” Labecki said in a phone call Tuesday. He declined to comment further.
When asked in an email Monday whether the WIAA would appeal, Labecki did not offer a direct response to the question but made no indication of the imminent appeal.
“We will continue to focus on our tournaments,” he wrote Monday, referring to tournaments involving other sports. “... We won’t have anything to provide you for the near future.”
The Halter family declined to comment on the appeal.
During the Feb. 8 injunction hearing, WIAA lawyers argued that the judge’s decision could open up the opportunity for a stream of litigation against referees’ and umpires’ rulings. Piontek said the organization would have to contend with that possibility going forward.