Senior Spotlight: Danville’s Sallee leaving no questions on the mat

Published 10:24 pm Friday, February 14, 2020

This weekend, Danville senior Morgan Sallee is closing out his high school wrestling career with his fifth trip to the state tournament. Last year, he earned his best finish with an eight place mark. This year, his goal is just to do better than that.

After being pinned by Trayce Eckman in the second round on Friday, the path got a little tougher, but that goal is still in sight.

But just getting to the state tournament this year has been a task in and of itself for Sallee. 

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He’s been dealing with a shoulder injury all season long, and it flared up again in the regional tournament. He had to forfeit the championship match because of it, but not without giving it a try. 

“We see it every year — kids forfeiting in the regional finals due to injuries. Everybody will question whether they should be allowed to do that,” Sallee said about why he wrestled despite the injury. “I didn’t want any questions. I wanted to go out and give it a try at least. It’s one of those things where it came down to how it felt in the moment and in the moment it wasn’t feeling good.”

The decision was his, but he had to convince his coach, Joey Sallee, to let him go.

Oh yeah, that’s his dad.

“It’s got its ups and downs. We usually hate each other during the season,” he said about having his father as a coach. “But it’s nice because he’s been there for everything I’ve done. He’s seen all of my accomplishments and that’s really neat. Honestly, I couldn’t really do it without him — I mean he is the head coach and runs the program.”

That family aspect of wrestling has been there since the beginning — when Sallee was five years old.

“I got into it because my older sibling started wrestling and I’d come up here elementary school and watching,” Sallee said about how he got his start wrestling.

One of his current coaches, Elliott Porter, was on the team back then.

That long history with his coaching staff gives him the confidence that he can win going into any match.

“Usually by the end of the first period is when my confidence level is high that I’m set up good for this match,” he said. “If I’m going into a tough match and it’s close at the end of the first match, I feel like it’s going to go my way. I have faith that coach Porter and my dad have done everything they need to do to keep me in shape for those matches.”

While there is a wrestling team — it is inherently an individual sport. Sallee says that he likes the personal responsibility that comes with a wrestling match.

“It’s a big deal when you’re wrestling in a big match and you look over and all your teammates are there,” he said. “But it’s not like football where they’re not actively wrestling with you. It comes down to how much work you’ve put in. Do you deserve to win the match, or do you not?”

When he’s not on the mats, Sallee likes to be on the trails.

“I like hiking a lot. It gives me an escape from everything,” he said. “It puts me out and away from wrestling and school and just Danville in general. It gets me out a little more.”

Next year, Sallee will be wrestling for Thomas Moore University and is currently a pre-physical therapy major, but is in the process of changing it to engineering. That love of engineering started as a freshman.

“Danville does this really cool thing called Pathways where you find something you like and follow that out,” he said. “Freshman year, I found that I really liked engineering — I was into the hands on aspect of it.”

That love lead him to his favorite subject he’s taken while at Danville — AP Physics. 

Ultimately, Sallee has had a great high school career. In addition to last year’s state tournament finish, he has also placed in national tournaments in the off-season. No matter what happens on Saturday, Sallee has already learned valuable life lessons through wrestling.

“I feel like it’s helped me grow up a lot as a person. I know that no matter how hard it gets, I can always make it through.”