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‘Natural talent’ grows into state champion

Above, Al Price, left, arm wrestles, Paul Martinelli at the recent IAF State Championships which were held in Pittston at Diane’s Deli. Below, Price’s wife Debbie, left, is set to arm wrestle Amanda Runkle. Both Al and Debbie Price went on to win state titles in their respective divisions.

Back in the 1980’s arm wrestling contender Al Price grew up with arm wrestling legend Val Myrkalo of Scranton. Over the years Price watched Myrkalo shape good arm wrestling prospects into well-known contenders, including local arm wrestling guru Tom “Nitro” Simko of Suscon.

“Val was known as the guy to go to. Nobody knew more about the sport than him,” said Price.

Once Myrkalo retired, he saw a natural talent in Price and convinced him to give the sport a shot and throw his arm on the table. Ever since then, Price has trained non-stop, becoming the best arm wrestler he can be. Two years ago, Price joined the arm wrestling family at Diane’s Deli located on S. Main Street Pittston.

It was here where Price started training every Saturday with pro arm wrestlers Tom “Nitro” Simko and Leiraun “Black Ice” Baldwin.

“Nitro and Ice helped me master techniques such as the hook and the top roll,” said Price.

Once Price learned some techniques he took his first third place trophy in the “Arms of Steel” 0-165-pound Open Right Division.

A few months later, Price took a first place in Atlantic City in the 0-154-pound Novice Right Division.

“Al’s a tank. He’s the jokester of the group along with being a true sportsman who cheers for everyone,” said Baldwin.

After taking a first place trophy, Price decided to buy his own arm wrestling table and train with Baldwin for the International Arm Wrestling Federation’s (IAF) 2011 PA State Arm Wrestling Tournament, which was held on September 24 at Diane’s Deli.

“We would train twice a week on the table and then hit the gym on the days we weren’t on the table,” said Price.

Like his mentor Myrkalo, Price also decided to train his wife Debbie Price for the Women’s Open.

The IAF State Tournament had 63 entries, including competitors from the state of New Jersey. Price battled it out, winning five matches in a row. He was undefeated in the 0-154-pound Novice Right Division and beat up-and-coming arm wrestler “Big” Bob Mac, who was ranked number three in the nation, novice.

“He’s the most improved arm wrestler I’ve ever come across in the sport and keeps getting better,” said Simko.

Al’s wife Debbie took first place in the women’s open right becoming the first family of state champions at Diane’s.

Price is now currently training for the American Arm wrestling Association’s (AAA) Pa State Arm Wrestling Tournament. The tournament, which will be held in November, is being run by PA State Director Chris Ratchford who says “Al is looking to be a top contender at the tournament.”

If Price takes first he will be the right hand novice state champion in both the IAF and AAA arm wrestling divisions.

When asked how it feels to be the IAF state champion Price smiled a little and said, “In the end it’s all about healthy competition and having fun.

IAF State Results

Novice Right

0-154 – 1. Al Price, 2. “Big” Bob Mac, 3. Adam Blannard

155-176 – 1. Fred Delucca, 2. Tim Seamens, 3. Tom Deacon

177 and up – 1. Brandon Reichart, 2. Jim Fussner, 3. Paul Martinelli

Novice Left

0-165 1. Matt Powell, 2. Jesse Simko, 3. Paul Martinelli

166-198 1. Fred Delucca, 2. Brian Malek, 3. Jim Fussner

Women’s Open

1. Debbie Price, 2. Amanda Runkle, 3. Lisa Carroll

Men’s Open Right

0-143 - 1. “Nitro,” 2. Zack Lee, 3. Matt Degilio

144-165 - 1. Mike “Flash Surplus, 2. Sam Harris, 3. Paul Martinelli

166-187 - 1. Steve Shoemaker, 2. Tim Lewis, 3. Tom Morgan

221 and up – 1. Storm Chelino, 2. Dustin Morgan, 3. Mike Runkle

Men’s open Left

0-165 1. Mike “Flash” Surplus, 2. Jim Aiello, 3. Sam Harris

166-198 1. Storm Chelino, 2. Justin “Superman” Kopa, 3. Jim Aiello

199 and up: 1. Dustin Morgan, 2. Chris Ratchford, 3. Storm Chelino

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