Wisconsin judge overrules referee’s call that DQ’ed wrestler

February 12, 2019 / Athletic AdministrationWrestling
A Wisconsin judge last week made an unusual move when he issued an injunction that will allow a disqualified high school wrestler to compete at the state tournament.

Waterford High School sophomore Hayden Halter picked up two unsportsmanlike penalties in the closing moments of his conference championship match on Feb. 2. Under Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules, the double foul makes him ineligible to compete at the next meet.

At the center of the dispute, according to Halter’s family, is whether the fouls were warranted. At the 2:55 mark in the video below, referee Michael Arendt awards one point for an escape to Halter’s opponent. Halter questioned the call, and was immediately hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty. Then, after Halter shook his opponent’s hand, he flexed his muscles toward the crowd, earning him a second penalty.

According to The Journal Times, Halter said he only asked the referee “what was that?” to pick up the first penalty. After the match, he said he was flexing at his dad in the stands, and not taunting.

It’s worth noting that the referee is a former coach at Union Grove High School, the same school of Halter’s opponent, the article states. However, the two were not at Union Grove at the same time and have no prior relationship.

  » ALSO SEE: Promoting ethics in high school sports

It’s not often we see a referee’s judgement call overturned, but Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Piontek thought it was warranted.

From The Journal Times:

Piontek said that if the WIAA upheld Arendt’s call that Halter’s flexing was unsportsmanlike, then it would be “taking away someone’s right for celebration.”

“It looks like he was looking at his dad to me,” Piontek said upon reviewing video of the match and questioning Arendt. “I heard no profanity and I saw no taunting.”

Piontek also took issue with the policy that the WIAA won’t review referees’ calls after the fact, especially when the consequences could be as great as those faced by Halter.

“What’s most distressing to me is the WIAA won’t even look at it … even when there’s evidence in front of them,” he said.

The National Association of Sports Officials on Monday released a statement criticizing the decision:

Barry Mano, NASO President, said, “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. Imagine how many aggrieved parents/fans will now consider using the court system to challenge a referee’s judgment call. Not hard to fathom where this will lead. Sports and the courts will become more than just phraseology. As an aside, it is worth noting that historically, courts have been loath to engage themselves in judgment calls made by officials. They have done that for good reason.”  

“NASO stands in support of the WIAA and Wisconsin’s sport officials and urges the WIAA to appeal this matter for the greater good of all officials and high school athletics.”

Read the full story from The Journal Times.

Read more about the NASO’s and WIAA’s fears over what the ruling could mean for referees statewide.

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