Li golden at nationals
Roger Li was a late arrival to the sport of wrestling.
The 20-year-old Windsor native didn’t start until his Grade 10 year at Vincent Massey Secondary School.
“A senior bet me that I couldn’t beat him in a wrestling match. I decided to join because it was fun and I wanted to beat that kid and put his ego back where it belonged. He beat me but three months later I was beating him all the time.”
Li has been beating a lot of people since Grade 10. Early this spring, he won the Ontario University Athletics 125-kilogram title and in late spring, he won his first Canadian junior title competing at junior nationals for the first time.
The Brock Wrestling Club member won his first match by technical superiority, his second by fall and the final by a 3-2 decision over Karanveer Mahil of British Columbia’s Takedown Academy.
“The junior heavyweight competition was fairly tough and he handled things well in all his matches. He is young, he is getting better all the time and he proved it,” Brock coach Dave Collie said. “He showed a lot of maturity and we are hoping for big things from him in the future as he continues to develop.”
The third-year computer science major at Brock was thrilled when a Canadian gold medal was hung around his neck.
“A lot has changed with my style over the past few months. I used to be very tense and focused but now I am doing a lot more methodic and calm thinking. It is very straightforward,” he said.
Li has also changed his approach and is trying to wrestle like a lightweight instead of a heavyweight.
“It works pretty good because heavyweights have that stereotype where they are not the best technically,” he said. “It is fighting that stereotype and being that big guy who can wrestle like a smaller guy. We can do speed, we can be technical and we can be smart too. You just have to put the work in to do it.”
Collie knows Li can do it.
“For a big guy, he moves really well. As we get him to use his athleticism with his technique, he can do really well and the ceiling is pretty high for what he is capable of doing if he continues to progress.”
Li’s victory at the Canadian championships earned him a berth at the junior Pam Ams and the junior worlds.
“It is thrilling and kind of a relief because I had been to the Pam Ams before as a cadet. I didn’t do as well as I was hoping to and I am hoping to get back in there and gain back my honour and reputation three years later,” he said, prior to winning a silver medal at the Pan Ams in Mexico.
His first Pan Am appearance came when he was only in his second year of wrestling.
“I am more independent now and I am able to think what I need to do,” he said. “After putting in the hard work for all these years, it will be interesting to see where I belong.”
The next step in his progression as a wrestler is continuing to improve in all areas.
“Obviously better attacks is the big one but once again it is being open-minded. It’s getting used to situations where I am not just wrestling heavyweights any more. I am doing a lighter style such as being on my knees more. A lot of heavyweights don’t go on their knees because it is dangerous but if you are on your knees you have a better chance of going for the legs.”
Li is working towards a number of goals.
“Marty (head coach Calder) tells us he believes in all of us and we all want to make it to the Olympics one day,” he said. “In a fun way, my background is Chinese and if I ever wrestle the best Chinese wrestler and beat him, I am going to scream out ‘I am the best Asian. I am the best of my people.’ ”
The Brock Wrestling Club is holding its annual fundraising golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 29 at Rockway Vineyards. All proceeds are used to support the international travel of its athletes. The $150 entry fee includes golf, cart, lunch, dinner, starter package and prizes. For more information, contact Marty Calder at 905-688-5550, ext. 4758 or email@example.com. Event sponsorships and hole sponsorships are also available.
This is the fifth story in a series profiling Brock Wrestling Club members who won national titles in 2022.