In 2019, a Waterford High School wrestler was ejected from a varsity conference match after receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct calls from the match official. Due to the ejection, high school athletic rules required the wrestler to sit out his next competitive event.
Less than one week after the match, the wrestler secured a temporary restraining order from a Racine County Circuit Court judge that allowed him to participate in the varsity regional event the following day. With the restraining order in place, the wrestler went on to win a Division I State Title.
While the matches were over, the case was not. The issue remained as to whether the temporary restraining order was properly issued and whether the wrestler’s subsequent victories should stand. The case had far-reaching implications for high school athletics, including whether the wrestler had a right to due process under the Wisconsin State Constitution to participate in high school athletics and whether judges should overrule the calls of sports officials.
Over two years later, the hearing took place over two days before a new Racine County judge. After testimony from numerous witnesses and arguments by counsel, the Court rendered judgment in favor of the high school athletic association, represented by Anderson O’Brien, LLP Attorney Brent Jacobson.
In a lengthy oral ruling, the Court held that the wrestler enjoyed no constitutional right to interscholastic athletic participation under the Wisconsin State Constitution, citing to persuasive precedent from federal courts. The Court further held that the official’s calls were not arbitrary and were supported by evidence, including the testimony of three other officials. The implication from this ruling is that judges should not substitute their judgment for the judgment of sports officials who are making game time decisions.