Kennedy High special education teacher Salvatore Morabito has seen plenty of powerlifters. The 71-year-old Belgium-born weightlifter has been pounding iron since he was eight years old. And now, at the crowning point of his career, the schoolteacher for students with severe disabilities has found the perfect training partner—someone who can out bench press him.
“I taught weightlifting for many years,” Morabito said in his subtle European drawl. “[And] as you might guess, I am a strong believer in weight training. But rarely have I seen a student with so much will power and determination to improve.”
Morabito said when then 15-year-old Ryan Palmieri first started lifting weights with him at De Anza High School he could barely press the barbell. Now at Kennedy High, and two years later, Palmieri is benching one-and-a-half times his own body weight, he said.
“He has six Special Olympian world records in the 123 lbs. weight class for 13-15 year olds, and eight Special Olympian world records in the 148 lbs. weight class for 16-17 year olds,” Morabito said of his muscle protégé with a severe developmental disability and significant speech impairment.
On May 11, Morabito and Palmieri will travel to Vacaville where the 17-year-old with a love for racecars and gardening will compete in the American Powerlifting Association Old Skool Iron Push-Pull competition.
“He has great potential and loves lifting weights,” Morabito said. “Even people who are one-and-a-half times his body weight cannot lift what he lifts. Ryan can deadlift two-and-a-half times his body weight. And even though he benches more than I do, he always listens to me when I teach him how to improve his technique.”
For more information on how to participate in the Vacaville powerlifting contest, click here.