A 17-year-old powerlifter overtook his 71-year-old mentor Saturday. And he did it with ease. It may have taken the Kennedy High School special education junior three years of teeth-grinding training to accomplish the feat, but it was well worth the wait. “Today I got depressed,” special education teacher Salvatore Morabito said with a big laugh recounting how student Ryan Palmieri pushed and pulled more weight than his own bones could handle, 25 pounds more, in fact. “My glory days are over. [Ryan] has no idea how much he lifts. But he knows he beat me and that’s all that matters,” he said.
According to Morabito, Palmieri now holds 22 world records: 18 as a Special Olympian and four in the mainstream division of the American Powerlifting Association and World Powerlifting Alliance. Twelve of those marks came Saturday at a competition at the Old Skool Gym in Vacaville where the 140-pound weightlifter used his tensile strength to bench press one-and-a-half times his body weight, and deadlift two-and-a-half times his poundage for a grand total of 555 lbs. “He picks [up the bar] like it’s nothing,” Morabito said of Palmieri’s deadlift technique. “I couldn’t believe it—no stress whatsoever. I know he could’ve done more but I didn’t want him to get hurt.”
Darren Monahan, a Richmond police officer and co-owner of Old Skool Gym, said 23 men and women competed in the weightlifting invent. Some travelled as far as from Eureka and Redding, he added. “Today’s heaviest lift total was by Clay Edgin of San Jose,” the policeman with tattoo sleeves said. “He lifted 1,080 lbs.”
Morabito said when he got to Kennedy High School on Monday he made an announcement over the loudspeaker to acknowledge Palmieri’s accomplishments. The bulletin was the hardest part of his day because he had to admit that his teenage student out-muscled him, the 64-time world record holder said. “I had a terrible morning, as I had to face my students after having told them last week that I would whip Ryan’s butt,” he said lightheartedly. “They all made fun of me and demanded a party for Ryan after learning that I am the one who got his butt whipped!”
Next on Palmieri’s list of things to tackle is high school football. “We’re going to let him go out for football this year,” said his father Robert Palmieri during the weightlifting competition. “He has no idea what position he wants to go out for, but he finally got into watching it [on TV] last year. He totally wants to do it. We’ll see how it goes.”