It’s time for Maine to cut eight very good high school wrestlers in each weight class down to the three best.

Saturday’s New England Qualifier tournament, at Oxford Hills High, determines Maine’s representatives for next weekend’s New England Championship in Providence, Rhode Island.

Matches begin at 9:30 a.m., with the finals expected to start around 4 p.m.

“I think there’s a front-runner for sure in every weight class, other than maybe 113 (pounds),” said Erick Jensen, the coach of Class A champion Mt. Ararat/Brunswick. “But there’s going to be upsets. There always is. There’s those kids who are just ready for the season to be done.”

The 113-pound class features two freshmen who have not lost to in-state competition, Class A champion Brycen Kowalsky of Mt. Ararat and Class B winner Jackson Sutherland of Mattanawcook Academy.

This is the sixth year for the NEQ, or all-states as most of the wrestlers refer to it. Coaches pushed for the extra tournament because they felt the old system – sending the champion from A, B, and C – weakened Maine’s entries at the New England Championship. Quite often the two best wrestlers at a given weight compete against each other in the same class. Maine went to a two-class system for wrestling in 2016. Last season, 32 of the 42 qualifiers (and 11 of the 14 winners) were from Class A.

Mt. View junior Mark Ward is the only returning winner from Class B. Ward won at 138 pounds last season and is now wrestling at 145, the same weight class as Camden Hills’ Noah Lang.

Lang, a senior, won the Noble Invitational this season and is the defending NEQ champ at 145. The two wrestlers did not match up at the KVAC championships because Ward moved up (and won) to 152.

“It will be interesting to see Lang go up against Ward, assuming they end up wrestling each other,” Jensen said.

Four other state champion wrestlers return with a 2018 NEQ win on their resume: Cony senior Noah Dumas (now at 106 pounds) won the 113- pound title, Noble sophomore Josh Cote (126) won at 120, Noble junior Sam Martel (138) won at 126 and Nokomis senior David Wilson (170) was the 160-pound winner.

Cote placed fifth at New Englands.

Other weight classes that have strong potential for a Class B vs. Class A showdown for the top spot include 138, 170, 182, and 285.

At 138, Martel got through a tough group in Class A but Class B champ Logan Lord of Ellsworth is well regarded.

At 170, Wilson (and Massabesic’s Matthew Pooler) should expect a strong challenge from Class B champ Nathan Curtis of Wells, who won the tough Spartan Invitational this season.

At 182, Class B champ Jonah Potter, a sophomore from Wells, and Class A champion Aaron Lettre of Cony met earlier this season, with Lettre winning a semifinal match by pin at the Noble Invitational.

In the heavyweight division, David Gross of Bucksport, the Class B champ, is considered the favorite but Scarborough senior Addison Boisvert has a runner-up finish at the Spartan to go with his wins at the Class A regional and state level.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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