Hayden Halter is going to court to keep his wrestling season alive.
The Waterford High School wrestler and his family filed a complaint in Racine County Circuit Court on Thursday night in hopes of restoring Halter’s eligibility for Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 regional meet at Pewaukee.
Halter, a state champion wrestler at 106 pounds last season and ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds by Wisconsin Wrestling Online this season, was disqualified from competing individually for the remainder of the season after the Southern Lakes Conference Tournament at Elkhorn last Saturday.
Halter received two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the 120-pound championship match against Union Grove sophomore Cade Willis.
The Halter family hired Jeremy P. Levinson, an attorney for Halling & Cayo S.C. based in Milwaukee. Levinson said on Thursday that he’s optimistic the case will be heard Friday.
“We filed tonight so that when we call the Racine Court Friday morning, they will know exactly what we are talking about,” Levinson said. “It’s all going to depend on how busy the court is. But there is a good chance that it gets heard tomorrow.”
Levinson described Halter as a “rock-star wrestler” and said that the WIAA should have never issued a disqualification.
“He got a goofy suspension,” Levinson said. “And this alleged one-game suspension, in reality, is more like a three-game suspension because he wouldn’t be able to compete at sectionals or state.
“My biggest question for the WIAA is, ‘Why can’t you let him compete provisionally?’” he added. “There’s a provision in the WIAA rules that allows for the undoing of an athletes accomplishments; if we are overruled in this case, then just strip him of his title if he ends up winning it all.”
In the complaint, a copy of which Levinson provided to The Journal Times, Halter asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order on the WIAA and allow him to participate in all meets for the rest of the season.
“I think we have a very compelling case,” Levinson said. “I’ve reviewed the video several times and I don’t think Hayden did anything wrong. I’m hopeful that the judge who oversees this can see that this isn’t worth suspending a kid over.”
The complaint says Halter’s actions at the SLC meet were “in no way disruptive, disrespectful, flagrant, vulgar, or otherwise ill-mannered or unsportsmanlike.”
On the other hand, the actions of the referee of the match — Michael Arendt, the athletic director at St. Catherine’s High School and a former teacher and coach at Union Grove High School — were “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the standards promulgated by WIAA and NFHS (National Federation of High Schools),” the complaint said.
The complaint also said that Waterford wrestling coach Tom Fitzpatrick attempted to have Halter serve his suspension by preparing to compete in a junior varsity match at Lake Geneva on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Halter made weight and was eligible to compete in the meet, but sat out, therefore serving his suspension, the complaint said.
But the WIAA deemed that insufficient and told Halter he was barred from a second match — the regional match on Saturday — the complaint said.
Levinson said he expects the WIAA to cooperate if a hearing takes place.
“I spoke with the WIAA’s lawyer and he indicated that he would intend to appear by telephone conference if the hearing happens tomorrow,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said talks with the WIAA were quiet on Thursday. “We didn’t hear a lot from the WIAA,” he said. “I think it’s going to come down to this injunction. We are hopeful that this all works out for Hayden.”
If the disqualification stands, Halter could wrestle again if the Wolverines win the regional team title at Pewaukee on Saturday.
Halter would be allowed to wrestle at the Division 1 team sectional dual meet scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Mukwonago. The winner of that meet would be one of eight Division 1 teams to qualify for the state team tournament March 1-2 at Madison.