In its third year, the New Eng-land wrestling qualifier Saturday at Mt. Ararat High will have fewer wrestlers competing.

The past two years, the top four wrestlers in each weight class from Classes A, B and C were eligible to compete, but many third- and fourth-place finishers, especially from Class C, skipped the meet. In 2015, none of the weight classes were full and only one had 10 wrestlers.

This year, with a two-class system, the top four finishers from last week’s Class A and B championships are eligible to compete in the qualifier. The top three finishers will qualify for the New England championships March 4-5 in Providence, Rhode Island.

New state champions Skowhegan (Class A) and Foxcroft Academy (Class B) will be well represented, with eight and seven eligible wrestlers, respectively. Skowhegan’s Cody Craig (106) and Julian Sirois (152) are both undefeated this season.

Foxcroft had five Class B champs, including the trio of Zach Caron (145), Michael Pendriss (220) and Connor Holmes (285), who won titles at the tough Noble Invitational earlier this season.

Also expected are newly minted four-time state champs Peter Del Gallo of Gardiner (120) and Griffyn Smith of Dirigo (113).

Five wrestlers who won their weight class at the 2015 New England qualifier are back, including Noble’s Austin Shorey, the runner-up to Del Gallo the past two weeks. Class B champ Danny Buteau of Oak Hill is another top wrestler at 120.

Marshwood has three returning NEQ champs: Bradley Beaulieu, Aidan Whitis and Justin Stacy.

Beaulieu, an undefeated junior, is the favorite at 132 after beating Del Gallo at 126 last year in a 2-1, three-overtime final.

Stacy and Whitis proved last year that upsets can happen at the NEQ. Stacy beat Class A champ Dominick Day in the semifinals and Eastern Class A champ Kam Doucette to win the 152-pound title. Now he’s the Class A 182-pound champ. Whitis, then wrestling for Chev-erus, won at 132 after placing fourth at the state tourney. This year, Whitis is at 138.

Skowhegan’s Craig is the reigning 106-pound winner.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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