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Illinois Wrestling: Isaiah Martinez named No. 1 seed for NCAA Championships

Coach Jim Heffernan is taking his entire lineup to nationals in St. Louis next weekend.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez was named the No. 1 seed in the 157 pound bracket and he will be joined by his nine teammates as they compete in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, which will be held March 19-21 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Nine Illini earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships by placing at the Big Ten Championships this past weekend. 141-pounder Steven Rodrigues received an at-large bid Wednesday morning. It is the first time since 2006 the Illini have sent a full 10-man lineup.

The redshirt freshman Martinez (30-0) received the top seed after defeated No. 2 Dylan Ness of Minnesota, 12-5, in the Big Ten Championships final bout last Sunday. He was also named the conference's Freshman of the Year. Wednesday's morning, WIN Magazine also named him one of four finalists for the Dan Hodge Trophy, considered the Heisman Trophy for amateur wrestling.

[MORE: Illinois Wrestling: Isaiah Martinez named Hodge Trophy Finalist]

Martinez has 20 bonus point wins, including a NCAA Division I leading 10 technical falls. The Leemore, Calif. native will wrestle Army's Russell Parson (26-10) in the opening round. If Martinez does win a national championship, he will be the third Illini wrestler behind Matt Lackey (2003) and Eric Siebert (1998) to finish an undefeated season.

Two-time defending NCAA champion at 125 pounds, Jesse Delgado (9-3) went unseeded and will wrestle No. 8 seed Tyler Cox (22-7) of Wyoming in the opening round. Delgado missed the first few months of the season with a shoulder injury before returning to the lineup. His three losses are to No. 1 seed Alan Waters (30-0) of Missouri, No. 4 seed Nathan Tomasselo (28-4) of Ohio State and an injury default to No. 11 Jordan Conaway (23-6) of Penn State.

Zane Richards (23-6) at 133, Jackson Morse (26-6) at 165 and Zac Brunson (26-8) at 174 are the other seeded wrestlers. The No. 5 seed Richards, will wrestle Oregon State's Jack Hathaway (28-10). Richards avenged his 3-1 second round loss to No. 3 Jimmy Gulibon (PSU) with a 4-3 win for fifth place at Big Tens.

The No. 9 seed Morse will wrestle Rider's Connor Brennan (13-5) in the opening round. Morse is coming off a fifth place finish at Big Tens. Brunson, the No. 11 seed, draws another Rider opponent in Ryan Wolfe (21-10).

Rodrigues will face No. 6 seed Nick Dardanes (22-3) of Minnesota at 141. Dardanes won by an 8-6 decision over Nebraska's No. 9 seed Anthony Abidin (31-4) for third place at Big Tens. Rodrigues lost to Abidin by fall in 3:59 in the consolation bracket.

149-pounder Kyle Langenderfer (21-13) draws No. 4 Brandon Sorenson (34-4) of Iowa, who fell by 2-1 decision to No. 1 seed and returning NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis (33-1) of Northwestern in the Big Tens final. Langenderfer was pinned by Tsirtsis in the opening round, but muscled his way through the consolation bracket, ending with a 9-7 win in sudden victory over Michigan's No. 6 seeded Alec Pantaelo (20-7).

Nikko Reyes (24-10) will wrestle No. 13 seed Victor Avery (28-5) of Edinboro at 184. Reyes took seventh place at Big Tens. Jeff Koepke (20-15) at 197 draws No. 16 seed Eliot Riddick (18-11) of Lehigh. Riddick did not wrestle during the dual at Illinois in November. Brooks Black (17-14) will wrestle No. 7 Blaize Cabell (28-5) of Northern Iowa.

The NCAA Championships begin at 11 a.m. CT on March 19. Fans can follow the entire tournament on ESPN3. The semifinals and finals will air live on ESPN. Every other session will be televised on ESPNU.

[MORE: 2015 NCAA Division I Brackets]

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