By Phillip Brents
Eastlake High School senior Ronnie Sallee recently wrapped up his third season on the school’s boys lacrosse team. Prior to that he completed his fourth season on both the Titans’ football and wrestling teams. That’s 11 letters in the three sports, making the soon-to-be EHS graduate one of the school’s more remarkable male student-athletes.
Certainly the 2014-15 interscholastic season was very kind to him in the awards — and rewards — department. Sallee earned honors as the Mesa League’s Defensive Player of the Year in football and won the San Diego Section Division I championship title in his 195-pound weight class during the wrestling season.
During the just completed lacrosse season, he helped the Titans win their third consecutive league title while also playing a pivotal role as a defenseman as Eastlake recorded the top-scoring defense in the section. Numbers all to be proud of. But which sport does the Grand Canyon University-bound Sallee like the best? “Whichever one I am playing that season,” he smiled.
Athletic competition has been in Sallee’s blood since he was a child. He started playing flag football at age 5 and later played youth soccer, basketball and baseball. “Football kind of stuck with me,” he admitted. He was a member of the Eastlake Panthers eighth-grade team that recorded a runner-up finish in the San Diego Youth Football and Cheer Q-Bowl championship game.
He was pulled up to the Titan varsity football team near the end of his freshman year and remained a mainstay on the squad. Sallee was a member of the Titans’ 2012 San Diego Section Division I championship football team. During his four years at Eastlake he’s won two league championships.
Last season the 5-foot-10, 215-pound Sallee reaped rewards as a middle linebacker on Eastlake’s Open Division quarterfinalist team.
During the wrestling season, Sallee may have experienced his most successful endeavors. He won the Mesa League 195-pound individual weight class championship with three pins in as many matches before going on to post four more wins — all by pin — to capture the Division I title.
The Titan mat man finished the season 31-6 with a fifth-place individual finish at the San Diego Masters state qualifying tournament. The top three place-finishers in each weight class advance to the state championship meet.
“I had always dreamed of winning the Division I title since I was a freshman, and to win it as a senior meant a lot to me,” he said. “I got a taste of it my junior year when I finished second.” So, what does he specifically like about each sport?
“I like the intensity and the “Friday Night Lights” adrenaline rush from football and I like the personal aspect of wrestling, the mental part — it’s just you and yourself out there,” he explained. “I like how lacrosse is a team-oriented sport. You have to work with your teammates to be successful.”
Sallee said wrestling imparts the most to the other sports in which he has competed in high school. “It teaches self-control and aggression,” he said. “You have to be mentally prepared for whatever comes along, whether it’s one match or a tournament you’re in.”
Wrestling is also the sport he will pursue at Grand Canyon University. The school has a Division I team as well as a club team. Sallee is setting his sights on joining the club team first to get a taste of the Division I-level training regimen.
“I want to get the experience of training at the Division I level and work my way up to the Division I team,” he said.
Sallee has also been a standout in the classroom as well on the athletic field. He’s been on the principal’s honor roll since his sophomore year and holds a weighted 4.03 grade-point average heading into his final semester. His favorite subject is mathematics, which will be useful as he pursues a degree in mechanical engineering in college. “Math comes easy for me,” he said.
Sallee has still managed to find time for community involvement. He’s donated his time as a volunteer youth wrestling coach and referee at youth wrestling tournaments. “I enjoy helping out younger wrestlers because I have a passion for the sport,” he said. He’s also volunteered many hours at the Bonita Valley Community Church.
Sallee said participating in athletics most of his life has taught him very valuable life lesson skills.
“I’ve learned it takes a lot of commitment and you have to be dedicated if you want to be successful.”
Certainly words to live by.
By Phillip Brents