Phillips steps down as Sharks‘ mat mentor; search continues for successor


Two-time Georgia state

qualifier departs following

20-28 combined record


In a fickle world of prep athletics, the 12-year tenure of Mike Lastra at Nature Coast Technical did not initially stand out.

Mike Lastra

From 2004-16, Lastra paced the sidelines for the NCT wrestling program.

From scratch, Lastra’s crews did not record a winning campaign in 2004-05 (1-17), 2005-06 (8-16) or 2006-07 (3-19).

In Year 4, the Brooksville-based mat men finished 4-4 (2007-08).

From there, the former Central High state qualifier under Alan Solomon pieced together eight non-losing seasons in a row.

From 2008-09 through 2014-15, the Sharks did not win less than 19 matches per winter.

He stepped down to accept assistant principal’s position following the 2015-16’s 9-23 campaign.

Over 12 winters, Lastra‘s grapplers etched a 188-162 won-lost standard.

In all, Lastra’s teams advanced 26 Sharks to the FHSAA State Finals and returned home with 12 state placers.

Of the 47 Hernando County state champions in 54 winters, one hails from NCT: Brandon Vovan at 160 pounds in 2013.

Brandon Vovan

It turns out, replacing Lastra has not been easy.

Mike LaRocca guided the program for one season (2016-17) while Chance Phillips has paced the sidelines the past two winters.

Phillips, however, recently tendered his resignation to Athletic Director Kristin Peeples.

After having such stability under Lastra, the Sharks will be seeking to fill the NCT head coaching vacancy for the third time in four short winters.

Phillips’ run

Chance Phillips

Phillips, 44, explained, “At the end of the day, this was a hobby. I did it because it was so enjoyable … The biggest positives were the kids.”

After finishing 13-14 and 7-14 the past two winters, the former Georgia two-time state qualifier pushed three Sharks to the 2019 Class 1A State Finals in Kissimmee – all underclassmen – including sophomores Billy Fetzner and Jonathan Dominguez and junior Jaxon Morris.

Since school ended, Dominguez has transferred to F.W. Springstead in Spring Hill.

Jonathan Dominguez

Dominguez’s departure was part of the reason for leaving. Phillips says his retention rate over the past two years was a woeful 6 percent.

On the state of the Sharks’ program, “It’s a program on a reboot,” quipped Phillips. “You just can’t reboot every year. We went through a complete reboot both years I was here. You just can’t do that.”

“There was no part of coaching I did not like,“ shared Phillips. “The biggest thing is the time and energy that coaches put in balanced against all the administrative world that exists today.“

In Phillips’ eyes, “To have a successful program, you have to have good coaches, committed athletes and an infrastructure that supports those things.”

“I look around here, he have to have a youth program, otherwise we’re behind the 8=ball with other local schools,” he noted. “And we’ve got to have facilities.

“…I think the next coach here needs to be teacher on staff who can overhaul these shortcomings.”

Though Phillips’ teams went a combined 0-for-23 in dual meet and IBT tournaments in two seasons, he took pride in his team’s individual growth.

“What’s my legacy? If kids worked, they found success,” stressed Phillips. “In two years, we pushed five state qualifiers and had one state placer. None of the guys we took to states were long tenured wrestlers, which is amazing.

Billy Fetzner

“For the most part, we took kids who wanted to work and made something happen,” emphasized Phillips.

“I‘m gonna miss the kids. I saw them one last time before resigning. Fetzner was a warrior, so was Spellman and Morris and was Dominguez. The hardest part of this is leaving them.”

Phillips said his family will continue to reside in Hernando County.

He’s expects to assist Head Coach David Pritz at Hernando High with their program.

By the Numbers:

NCT’s Chance Phillips (2017-19)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

























Tournament Titles: (0)

2017-18: 0-for-12

2018-19: 0-for-11

Lifetime: 0-for-23


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