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The Powerlifter

on April 9, 2013

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.


  1. Kate Rauch on April 9, 2013 at 11:37 am

    What a nice story and slide-show. I like its simplicity; not too saccharine. It would be cool if you could follow Ryan to the Vacaville competition, as a reporter, which I gather isn’t a Special Olympics event but mainstream.

    • Kate Rauch on April 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      I meant video! Very nice.

    • Tyler Orsburn on April 9, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Thank you, Kate. I do plan to travel to Vacaville to cover the powerlifting event. According to Salvatore Morabito, Ryan will compete with all competitors but be signed up, or registered, as a Special Olympian.

  2. Marilyn on April 12, 2013 at 5:32 am

    Way to go Ryan!!! You are an awesome you g man!!! Keep up the great work, there are so many people that you don’t even know that a proud of you!!!

    • Marilyn on April 12, 2013 at 5:34 am

      Young man *

  3. Giuseppe Carosi on May 29, 2013 at 4:47 am

    Salvatore, vedo che i tuoi ragazzi si danno da fare , e si vedranno i frutti molto presto, sei un bravo istruttore, oltre che un bravo scalatore delle Ande Peruviane!!

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