While Hayden Halter’s name is still atop the bracket on the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s website, a judge ruled last week that the court didn’t have the authority to overrule the ineligibility of the Waterford High School athlete, who won the 120-pound state title in 2019. Therefore, the WIAA vacated Halter’s championship, which came during his sophomore season.
According to The Kenosha Journal Times, Racine County Circuit Court judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz overruled now-retired judge Michael Piontek’s February 2019 decision that allowed Halter to compete at state.
The case stems from the 2019 Southern Lakes Conference tournament, when Halter was called for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and subsequently suspended from WIAA regional competition, which is the first step in qualifying for state.
The Halter family immediately appealed the second unsportsmanlike penalty, but the tournament referees upheld the decision. Therefore, the Halters took it to court and, on Feb. 8, 2019, Piontek issued an injunction allowing Halter to compete at regionals, saying “this kind of case is the reason I became a judge; I became a judge to do what was right, to look at things honestly, to have just results, to have justice done.”
Gasiorkiewicz ruled last week that the court shouldn’t intervene in WIAA or National Federation of State High School Association issues, saying that “the court is not trained as an officiant” and “If we second-guess every athletic decision, we’ll never have finality for any sports event.”
“Judgment calls by sports officials should not be subject to legal challenge in the courts,” National Association of Sports Officials president Barry Mano said. “Judge Gasiorkiewicz’s ruling puts an exclamation mark on that principle. We are heartened that, after 2½ years, such wisdom has finally prevailed.”
“This was a long, protracted case but one that needed to be seen to conclusion, for obvious reasons,” WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said. “Just as the officials brought their very best to this tournament two and a half years ago, they stood up and gave their unflinching best in court over the course of these many months, hearings and depositions. Their expertise and credibility were noted repeatedly by the court and played a key role in the final decision by the court.”
Halter’s 106-pound title as a freshman at Burlington in 2018 stands. He also took third at 126 pounds in 2020 and second at 126 pounds in 2021. Attorney Stacie Rosenzweig told The Kenosha Journal Times on Monday that the Halter family hasn’t made any decision on if it will appeal.