Waterford wrestler won second state championship in late February

Hayden Halter rips through Pulaski’s Cole Gille in the WIAA Division 1 120-pound state championship match in late February at the Kohl Center in Madison. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Chris Bennett

Sports Correspondent

The odyssey of Hayden Halter competing in the postseason took another twist on Feb. 21 when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association appealed the Feb. 8 injunction from Judge Michael Piontek that allowed Halter to wrestle.

In a conversation Tuesday with personnel in the Racine County Clerk of Circuit Court’s office the Post learned the issue is not formally scheduled on Piontek’s calendar until May 7.

The matter may be resolved by then, but on May 7 members of Piontek’s staff are scheduled to brief the judge on the status of the appeal.

Halter, a sophomore on the Waterford Union High School wrestling team, won the WIAA Division 1 state title at 120 pounds Feb. 23 with an 8-3 decision over Pulaski’s Cole Gille.

Halter wrestled through the WIAA’s postseason due to Piontek’s injunction.

The events that led to this point started during the Southern Lakes Conference varsity wrestling tournament on Feb. 2 at Elkhorn Area High School.

Halter earned two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during the title match at 120 pounds against Union Grove’s Cade Willis. Halter won the match, 7-2.

Late in the match Halter questioned referee Michael Arendt when Arendt did not award Halter one point for an escape. Following that penalty Arendt assessed Halter another when Halter flexed his muscles on the mat following the victory.

Any wrestler assessed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties must sit out the following competition, per WIAA regulations.

In Halter’s case, the next competition was a WIAA Division 1 regional tournament Feb. 9 at Pewaukee High School. Only the top four wrestlers in each weight class at the regional advance to their respective sectional tournament.

Only the top two wrestlers in each weight class at the sectional tournament advance to state. Waterford wrestled Feb. 16 in a sectional tournament at Horlick High School in Racine.

Halter’s season ended with Arendt’s assessment of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the ensuing disqualification. With that knowledge, Halter’s parents took the matter to court, and sued both the WIAA and Waterford Union High School to allow Hayden to wrestle.

The Post obtained a copy of the appeal filed by the WIAA. The WIAA refutes the claim that Hayden calmly asked Arendt to explain why Arendt did not award Hayden a point for an escape. The WIAA asserts that Hayden directed profanity at Arendt.

The WIAA also asserts that Halter taunted the crowd in a “flexing and growling manner” following his victory.

The affirmative defenses set forth by the WIAA – those the organization believes most strongly support the appeal – center on the perceived lack of the Halters’ legal ability to appeal the referee’s ruling in court.

The WIAA claims the courts may not interfere in the internal affairs of an association in which membership is voluntary, which defines the WIAA.

The WIAA asserts that Hayden Halter lacks a constitutional right to wrestle and that Shawn Halter – Hayden’s father – lacks the right to pursue any claim related to Hayden’s conduct.

The WIAA seeks dismissal of the claims made by the Halters and wants the restraining orders in effect for Feb. 8 and 15 vacated.

Such action might allow the WIAA to strip Hayden Halter of any postseason accomplishments.

Citing pending legal action, the Halter family and Waterford Union High School declined comment for this story.