Tyler Zanco was tough.
He was hard-working, athletic, passionate about wrestling and wanted to serve his country as a Marine after graduating from Waltham High School in the spring.
Zanco, 17, was shot to death Thursday night in Waltham. Police were called to the scene of a shooting death at around 10:30 p.m. at the Gardencrest Apartments complex. Zanco's family offered gratitude for all the support they are receiving but did not want to speak publicly. A Middlesex County DA office official said Friday afternoon that no arrests have been made but authorities do not believe this was a random attack.
Those who knew him, as a classmate, friend and student, were quick to talk about "Tank," as he was nicknamed by some of his friends, on Friday as word of his death spread throughout Waltham, Greater Boston and across the internet and social media.
"Tyler was all around loved by his school, family and friends," said Julia Morell. She attends Cardinal Spellman but knows both Zanco and his family through a mutual friend, and has for several years.
"He ran, swam and wrestled. He basically lived for wrestling," Morell told the OBF Blog Friday. "He loved comedy like Kevin Hart, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith."
Zanco, who wrestled with a "warrior spirit," was a co-captain on the school’s wrestling team and played football, lacrosse and even JV baseball. He was a Dual County League All-Star wrestler.
According to those who knew him, his most-intense passion was his desire to become a Marine after graduation.
"He was a real hard working kid, he worked extremely hard on what ever he did and you could see that right away, even if you didn't know him," said Mario Tellez Jr., who graduated from Waltham High in 2013. "He was very respectful, from what he always told us he wanted to join the Marines. I would be walking down the street at night and he would be running and training."
"He also really, really wanted and strived to be a Marine," Morell added. "When I say he wanted to be a Marine, he REALLY wanted to serve and help out the country I cannot stress that enough."
Zach Johnson, who is a freshman at Westfield State, was one of Zanco's wrestling partners last season. "He always gave it his all," Johnson posted on Twitter. "Tyler Zanco was not only a friend, but a Waltham Wrestling brother. I am beyond shocked now, what a very sad day. REST IN PEACE."
Johnson told the OBF Blog that he and Zanco both "shared a passion for" wrestling and that he helped get Tyler started on his wrestling journey. "There's no question that he had a lot of heart and was a very physical and strong wrestler." Johnson said Zanco wrestled at the 160-pound level after he graduated. "His toughness was something that stuck out to me."
Johnson also wanted everyone to know that Zanco's character extended beyond the wrestling mat. "More important than that he was a genuinely a nice kid and he was always looking to get better. A true competitor on the mat and in life itself."
"He wrestled with a warrior spirit and would never give up. He had strong take downs and mental toughness. I feel that he was enjoying life, he liked to be with his team and his friends. It's sad," Johnson added.
Mike Peterson is the JV baseball coach at Waltham High School and is a PE teacher at the middle-school level. He posted this image of a scorebook of baseball game from Zanco's sophomore year:
"He was extremely dedicated and was a great teammate. Always respectful to me every time I saw him," Peterson told the OBF Blog via email.
The coach shared this story about Zanco to demonstrate the type of young man he was becoming:
"We practice at 3 p.m. on the other side of Waltham. Most kids take a bus to get over there and Tyler missed it that day. Now school ends at 2 p.m. and buses leave the HS by 2:15 at the latest. So after he realized he missed the bus and that he was not going to have a ride to get there, he ran to practice. Now that’s roughly about 3.5 miles from one side of Waltham to the other and in order to get there and ready to practice by 3 p.m. he sprinted across the city. As I’m about to send the team out to stretch and throw, I asked the team where Tyler was, and next thing I know here comes Tyler sprinting through the parking lot, baseball bag on his back, trying to make practice on time! So I ask him, 'Did you run from your house?' He responded 'no I ran from the high school!' I just shook my head in shock, never have I ever had a kid to that. And to boot, he was on time!"
Peterson also said Zanco wanted to join the Marines and spoke of it even as a sophomore. "He was a kid who was definitely trying to find his way through life but like I said always respectful and worked hard. I just saw him yesterday walking to lacrosse practice yesterday on my way to practice and again 'hi coach.' Just a good kid who is gone too early."
Way too early.
Rest in peace, Tyler.
God bless you and your family.
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