Judge Blocks High School Wrestler’s Suspension

Andy Berg Headshot

A high school wrestler has won a second chance to continue his season after a judge walked back a prior suspension.

Waterford (Wis.) High School sophomore Hayden Halter had been suspended from competition after receiving a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at the Southern Lakes Conference meet on Feb. 2.

On Friday evening, however, a Racine County Circuit Court judge blocked Halter’s suspension following a two-hour hearing, wherein the judge ruled that Halter’s actions were not worthy of suspension, according to the Racine Journal Times.

On Saturday, Halter, who technically won the SLC championship at 120 pounds a week ago and is ranked No. 1 by Wisconsin Wrestling Online, put in a stellar performance at the Division 1 regionals in Pewaukee. He managed to win all three of his matches, two with pins in under a minute. He will now head to the Division 1 sectional.

“I had a point to prove today,” Halter said. “I came out as focused as I’ve ever been and I wanted to show that I should be able to wrestle and be excited after a victory.”

Halter’s unsportsmanlike penalties came during a convincing win after he questioned a judge’s call and then flexed his muscles at the crowd. His parents and coach said they would fight the decision, which proved successful.

“Flex or no flex, kids are excited after a win and they should be allowed to be excited,” Shawn Halter said on Saturday. “I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished and I know that he only has more ahead of him.”

While Halter may be happy about the results of his case, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and National Association of Sports Officials fear the decision could set a dangerous precedent.

In a commentary on the ruling, Barry Mano, the president of NASO, said the judge’s ruling must be challenged.

“Judge Piontek played armchair referee and the consequences, if left unchecked and unchallenged, will bring uncertainty and loss of belief in the outcomes of high school contests,” Mano argued. Mano also said the ruling could make it harder to recruit high school referees in the state of Wisconsin.

For its part, the WIAA is considering its options.

Attorney Brent Jacobson, representing the WIAA, said in a pair of emails to the Journal Times Monday: “At this point in time, all we can say is that our client (the WIAA) is weighing its alternative courses of action … an appeal is one option. If that option were pursued, given the stage of the proceeding at this time, I cannot say when that would occur.”

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