Cerebral palsy no match for Matt Powell

June 27th, 2015 1:37 am

First Posted: 3/14/2013

Matt Powell, a 22-year-old from Avoca, doesn’t let cerebral palsy stop him from excelling at competitive arm wrestling. He’s been competing in arm wrestling for six years and has won two Pennsylvania championships and a one national championship.

This Saturday, March 23, Powell is entered in the 10th annual PA Winter Blast at DA Bar in Levitown in a competition sanctioned by the International Armwrestling Federation (IAF.)

It’s a stand up style double elimination tournament. Powell is entered in the 154 pound and under pro-right and the 165 pound and under pro-left weight class.

Before the weight class competitions start, Powell is going to wrestle a challenge match for a $200 purse against Chris Nittoli from New Jersey, an up and comer who is the current New York, Connecticut, and PA State Champion.

As March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and the tournament is two days before Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, March 25, both wrestlers have agreed to donate the $200 purse to a Cerebral Palsy foundation.

Powell said he’s an underdog in the challenge match. “I’ve arm wrestled Nittoli over a half a dozen times but have yet to beat him. The chances of me winning are slim, but given the month and given all the obstacles I’ve had to face throughout my life, I feel that this is the perfect time for me to win. Win or lose, the most important thing is that you stand up for what you love to do and don’t let others discourage you from doing it.”

Though the cerebral palsy mostly effects Powell’s right side and legs, it also affects his back, arms and hands with a partial paralysis which makes it hard to get grip.

Despite its name, arm wrestlers also use their legs and hips to generate power, something Powell can’t do effectively. “My legs get tired before my arms,” he said.

Powell turned professional last year, but had a hard time staying competitive. “Once I turned pro, arm wrestling began taking a toll on my body. After losing at states in November I decided to take two months off and let my body heal.”

The rest helped. In Janurary he got back in the game at a tournament in New York, where he placed third in the pro-right handed division and in the pro-left handed division and defeated the left handed national Champion Chis Michaels.

The next Pennsylvania event on the IAF schedule is the Icebreaker at Diane’s Deli at 206 South Main in Pittston on April 6 starting at 2 p.m. with weigh-ins from noon to 1:30.

There’s a free practice and demonstration for newcomers with Tom “Nitro” Simko at Diane’s on Saturday, March 30 from 8 p.m. to 11.