Roanoke College wrestler Mahlic Sallah leads historic career

By Shawn Nowlin 

Mahlic Sallah (center) with Roanoke College Assistant Wrestling Coach Blake Rosenbaum (left) and Head Coach Nate Yetzer.

In the short history of the Roanoke College (RC) wrestling program, there’s only been one Maroon athlete to earn two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) All-American honors. Star City native Mahlic Sallah, 23, came to RC from Campbellsville University (CU) to win wrestling championships. Not only did he do that, but through a tireless work ethic on the mat and in the classroom, Sallah also made Maroon history too.

Sallah, so dominant that he often made it look easy, had a career that few college athletes ever experience. Standing 5’11, as a true freshman at Campbellsville, he weighed 174 pounds. After two productive, but unsatisfying seasons at the Kentucky NAIA institution, Sallah knew that he needed a change of scenery.

“Around December 2021, I realized that my CU coach wasn’t the man I should be following. When I told him I just wanted to focus on academics, he told me that I wouldn’t be getting any more money for my studies,” Sallah said.

He added, “One of my former high school coaches actually coached my Roanoke College assistant coach. After they had a few meetings, I was asked if would I be interested in coming to Roanoke College. I didn’t need much convincing because I instantly fell in love with the culture here. Unlike my previous school, the coaches and  educators care about you as a person, not just a convenient statistic.”   

The champion is seen in an after-match victory pose.

Asked to describe what it felt like to represent the Maroons in competition for the first time, Sallah replied, “It was such a surreal moment for me. I’ve always hated losing more than I love winning. Looking in the stands and seeing so many familiar faces rooting for you tends to give you more energy.”

On his RC Wrestling Coach Nate Yetzer, Sallah said, “When I met him in high school, he was at Ferrum College. A very honest person, he works extremely hard and never makes excuses when he comes up short. He showed me how a good coach and even better man conducts himself on a daily basis.”

The story of Sallah’s life cannot be told without emphasizing the role that athletics has played from the start. Growing up in a competitive household, most of Sallah’s six siblings played sports. Competitive board games accompanied by friendly trash talk were a regular occurrence.

“To win a game of cards, my siblings were the type to change the rules at the last minute,” he said. “Having to stand up for myself at an early age certainly prepared me for this chapter in my life.”

By the time Sallah entered Cave Spring High, he already was a well-regarded athlete, enjoying success in wrestling, track and field, and cross country. A 2019 Knight graduate, Sallah had two post-high school options: join the military or continue his student-athlete journey in college.  

Already familiar with the school, when Sallah transferred to RC, the wrestling team had already shown flashes of dominance. Out of 28 career matches, Sallah earned 27 victories. Last year, he won regionals. This year, Sallah placed third.

Defeating opponent Kalyn Jahn of Wisconsin-La Crosse but losing to David McCullough of the US Coast Guard Academy earlier this month at the Berglund Center at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships still cemented Sallah’s legacy forever.

“The goal was to be a national champion and you do everything in your power to make that happen. Even though I came up short, I will never take for granted the stage Roanoke College afforded me. I came here to earn a degree and leave my mark on this program. Becoming the school’s first wrestling All-American is something I am extremely proud of.”

Perhaps more impressive than Sallah’s athletic accomplishments is his commitment to education. A criminal justice major with a concentration in sociology, Sallah wants to one day work for the Secret Services. “To do that, I’m going to have to probably do two years as a uniformed agent in northern Virginia. I have so many other passions as well, most notably acting and being an entrepreneur,” he said.  

Sallah interacts with young fans after a Roanoke College match.

Without the guidance of so many coaches over the years, specifically Barry Hubbard as well as Steve and Stacy Menessee, Sallah says he wouldn’t be the man that he is today.

In the coming weeks, Sallah will be offering private wrestling sessions for $50.00 an hour. For more information, interested individuals can email