Auburn High's Tyler Tanaka grapples with Opelika's Michael Castellani during a wrestling meet at Auburn High School on Feb. 11, 2017.

During his time at Auburn High, wrestler Tyler Tanaka took care of business on the mat and in the classroom. As a result, the senior has been rewarded for his countless hours of work and dedication.

Tanaka has been named a National High School Coaches Association Academic All-American for his efforts as a student-athlete at Auburn. Tanaka received the award after finishing his high school career by accumulating a 3.8 GPA and reaching sectionals in his final year of competition.

“I was very excited, and I’m really honored to receive this recognition. Being successful in the classroom and the wrestling room has been my main goal for the last four years,” Tanaka said. “I worked really hard in the classroom, made sure I got my work done and turned everything in on time. I also worked really hard on the wrestling mat to achieve my goals.”

Tanaka excelled as an Auburn wrestler, finishing in fourth at state in 2019 and recording a 126-31 record during his time on the team. Per his coach, Chris Spencer, Tanaka’s work ethic set him up to have tremendous success whenever it was his turn to get on the mat.

Spencer said Tanaka was a mainstay during his time coaching the team, adding that he was relentless at working on his craft and doing everything it took to get better. Spencer explained that attitude affected everyone around Tanaka, especially those going up against him during practice.

“He’s the hardest-working athlete I may have ever coached. He demands excellence for himself and will continue and practice. He’s non-stop. What he does on the mat he does in the classroom, and his teachers have told me that,” Spencer said. “On the wrestling mat, he’s a kid who loves practice. Loving practice makes you better on the mat. Whoever he works with is going to be getting better because he is the most relentless wrestler practicing.

“He’s just a great kid. He practices with a smile. To have somebody around that does that just lightens everybody up. He’s going to have a bright, bright future because of what he does.”

Tanaka spoke highly of his senior season at Auburn, saying it was an enjoyable one full of unforgettable moments. He said his personal highlight came when Auburn took on Smiths Station for the region championship in a meet that came down to Tanaka’s match to determine the winner.

Despite the pressure of the moment, Tanaka came through with a win that sent his Tigers teammates jumping for joy.

“It was so exciting. Everyone was jumping up and down and was so happy. It just made me feel good for the team,” Tanaka said. “I’m very happy to be a part of this wrestling team. I could have never been successful without the help from the coaches and my teammates. Putting in a lot of work really helps.”

Tanaka will soon take his talents to Huntingdon College, where he will also wrestle. Although the challenge of being a college student-athlete is by no means an easy one, he is ready to test himself and do whatever it takes to be just as successful as he was at Auburn.

“I’m super excited to go off to Huntingdon. They have a wonderful university that will provide me with an exceptional education, and I hope to have a great wrestling experience over there,” Tanaka said. “It really makes me happy knowing that I can still keep going and proceed with some more goals for my wrestling career.”

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