Mike Lastra hasn’t forgotten what it was like during the first few years of building his fledgling Nature Coast program.

That’s why what the Sharks accomplished Saturday at the Hernando High gym, finishing as the runner-up in the Class 1A, District 8 Tournament to Gulf High, meant so much.

“It’s exciting,” said Lastra, the lone head coach in team history. “I remember four years ago we were the laughing stock. We were last in every tournament. Just for the kids to buy into what we’re selling them and to believe in what we’re telling them, that’s exciting.

“Things are looking good for us. We were really close to Gulf. We wanted to catch up to them. We just didn’t come through in the end.”

The Buccaneers, three-time defending district champions and the overwhelming favorite coming in, finished in first with 233 points, but Nature Coast was a relatively close second at 196.5.

Host Hernando edged Dunnellon for third, 116-5-116, and a total of 20 Hernando County grapplers (13 from Nature Coast, seven from Hernando) advanced to next weekend’s Region II Meet at Palm Coast-Matanzas High.

Sharks: everyone in

The Sharks could boast that every single one of their wrestlers who competed placed in the top four, securing a regional berth.

Only at 215, where Keith Dodson remains sidelined with a knee injury, did no one from Nature Coast make it to at least the consolation finals.

However, only senior Scott Cronin earned a first-place ribbon, going 4-0 at 125 with four pins. He folded Joey Trent from The Villages in 1:42, Spencer Silver of Anclote in 29 seconds, Hernando’s Jared Young in 5:43 and Pasco’s Luis Hernandez in 2:47.

A year ago at this meet he finished second, and duplicated that the following week in regionals. This time, as he climbed in 96 career wins, he left with no regrets.

“This is my goal. I wanted it bad, so bad. I really did,” Cronin said. “I worked my (butt) off. Now I’m going to go for a regional championship.

“…It’s a really good feeling. Last year I was kind of disappointed. This year I wanted to go through districts doing the best I could and I did.”

“Scott, he’s on a tear,” Lastra said. “He hasn’t lost a match on the mat since the Gulf Duals (in December). He can win the whole thing. He definitely has a shot. He can definitely cause some damage. We’re looking for him to be our first state placer.”

Carter Bolesta (135), Mitchell Lambert (140) and Jeff Gilbert (189) all finished second in their weight classes, as did freshman 103-pounder Sean Nguyen. His 8-6 decision over Tony Ruggiero of Wesley Chapel earned him a spot in the championship final and a regional berth.

“Sean wins the most improved wrestler on our team,” Lastra said. “Every time he steps on the mat, he gets better. He’s going to be a stud.”

Gilbert dropped his final, 7-5 to Crystal River’s Robert Brass, in part because he suffered a shoulder injury. Lastra didn’t think that ailment would prevent Gilbert from wrestling at regionals.

Robert Anthony (119), Brenton Nuby (152), Carlos Carasquillo (160) and Greg Jarque (285) all came in third. In fourth place were Tyler Forand (112), Steven Richardson (130), Luke McCarty (145) and Peter Holloman (171).

“We’re going for a top-three finish in the region next week,” Lastra said. “We’re going in with 13 kids. If we can push 4-5 to states and have all the other guys win some matches, we’ve got a real legitimate shot at second.”

Tale of two Pritzs

Hernando’s two championship finalists came from the same family: brothers Daniel Pritz (145) and Zach Pritz (152).

The senior Daniel garnered his third district title with relative ease, going 3-0 with two pins. He needed just 1:30 to take down Michael Manseau of Trinity Catholic, then 3:42 to beat Pasco’s Trevor Drake.

In the final, he won via technical fall, 18-2, over Wesley Chapel’s Nick Popolillo. That improved his record to 35-1 this season, as he looks to become a three-time state placer and possibly more.

“I could have had a little more offense in my last match,” Pritz said. “I was just tilting and stuff. I was kind of playing it safe at the end there.

“…I have a lot more confidence than I ever have. I don’t think anyone can beat me. That’s my attitude every time I wrestle.”

His brother, a sophomore, can feel better about himself, as well. In what was by far the most entertaining final, the younger Pritz fell to state-title contender Ladarious Jackson from Gulf, 7-5.

“In the beginning (of the season) he got tech falled (by Jackson),” Hernando coach Bill Combs Sr. said. “The last one was a little bit closer. Now he was two points away. He’s putting the pressure on. (Jackson) needs to be worried now.”

Joining the Pritz boys at regionals from the Leopards will be third-place finishers Young, David Ayers (135) and Dakota Raney (189), along with fourth-placers Nicholas Pascullo (215) and Austin Neff (285).

“For a young team, I’m very happy,” Combs said. “I think the heavyweight end did really good.”

Final Class 1A, District 8 Team Standings
1. Gulf (GUL) 233.0
2. Nature Coast (NCT) 196.5
3. Hernando (HER) 116.5
4. Dunnellon (DUN) 116.0
5. Pasco (PAS) 75.5
6. Crystal River (CR) 70.0
7. Wesley Chapel (WC) 52.0
8. The Villages (VIL) 51.0
9. Trinity Catholic (TC) 37.5
10. Anclote (ANC) 36.5

Class 1A, District 8 Individual Finals Results
103 – Swartsel (GUL) pin Nguyen (NCT), 0:36
112 – Carpenter (GUL) dec. Gamez (PAS), 9-7
119 – Ayers (GUL) pin Patterson (DUN), 1:44
125 – Cronin (NCT) pin Hernandez (PAS), 2:47
130 – Hoppel (TC) pin Richardson (DUN), 1:46
135 – O’Connor (GUL) pin Bolesta (NCT), 4:07
140 – Jackson (DUN) dec. Lambert (NCT), 6-2
145 – D. Pritz (HER) tech. fall Popolillo (WC), 18-2
152 – Jackson (GUL) dec. Z. Pritz (HER), 7-5
160 – Mesagno (GUL) maj. dec. Delgado (DUN), 11-1
171 – O’Connell (DUN) pin Ritter (GUL), 5:38
189 – Brass (CR) dec. Gilbert (NCT), 7-5
215 – Palasky (GUL) pin Jordan (PAS), 2:41
285 – Kruse (GUL) pin Linton (ANC), 0:39

Class 1A, District 8 Individual Consolation Finals Results
103 – Sorrick (ANC) pin Ruggiero (WC), 2:14
112 – Varqulish (CR) dec. Forand (NCT), 11-4
119 – Anthony (NCT) dec. DeAugustino (PAS), 10-5
125 – Young (HER) pin Surber (CR), 5:18
130 – Isom (GUL) dec. Richardson (NCT), 7-0
135 – Ayers (HER) maj. dec. Jimenez (TC), 18-7
140 – Thompson (CR) pin Baxter (GUL), 3:13
145 – Gough (VIL) maj. dec. McCarty (NCT), 14-3
152 – Nuby (NCT) pin Williams (WC), 1:53
160 – Carasquillo (NCT) dec. Carpenter (CR), 7-1
171 – Wulff (VIL) pin Holloman (NCT), 2:10
189 – Raney (HER) pin Karr (GUL), 2:25
215 – Bowers (VIL) dec. Pascullo (HER), 3-2
285 – Jarque (NCT) pin Neff (HER), 0:38

Hernando’s Class 1A, District 8 Individual Results
Wgt Name W L Pins Pl
103 Kahler, Andrew 1 2 0 –
119 Weston, Spencer 1 2 1 –
125 Young, Jared 3 1 3 3rd
135 Ayers, David 3 1 1 3rd
140 Ulloa, Michael 0 2 0 –
145 Pritz, Daniel 3 0 2 1st
152 Pritz, Zach 1 1 1 2nd
160 Bronson, Robert 0 2 0 –
171 Day, Blaine 1 2 1 –
189 Raney, Dakota 3 1 3 3rd
215 Pascullo, Nicholas 0 2 0 4th
285 Neff, Austin 2 2 2 4th
TOTALS 18 18 14

Nature Coast’s Class 1A, District 8 Individual Results
WGT Name W L Pins Pl
103 Nguyen, Sean 1 1 0 2nd
112 Forand, Tyler 2 2 2 4th
119 Anthony, Robert 3 1 2 3rd
125 Cronin, Scott 4 0 4 1st
130 Richardson, Steven 2 2 1 4th
135 Bolesta, Carter 2 1 1 2nd
140 Lambert, Mitchell 2 1 1 2nd
145 McCarty, Luke 3 2 2 4th
152 Nuby, Brenton 3 1 1 3rd
160 Carasquillo, Carlos 2 1 1 3rd
171 Holloman, Peter 2 2 1 4th
189 Gilbert, Jeff 2 1 0 2nd
285 Jarque, Greg 3 1 3 3rd
TOTALS 31 16 19

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