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2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships: 285-pound preview, picks

A weight-by-weight breakdown of the 2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NCAA Championships begin Thursday and Illinois coach Jim Heffernan is taking his entire lineup to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. It's the first time since 2006 the Illini have sent a full 10-man lineup.

Most wrestling previews start at 125 pounds, but for Illinois we'll save the most important for last.

Illinois' Brooks Black (17-14) draws No. 7 seed Blaize Cabell (28-5) of Northern Iowa in the opening round.

[MORE: 2015 NCAA Division I Brackets]

Favorites

Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State is back to defend his title. Gwiazdowski came from behind in the final last year to upset two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota. He enters NCAAs with a second straight ACC title and a 30-0 mark with 14 pins.

On the other side of the bracket is No. 2 seeded Mike McMullan of Northwestern, who beat No. 3 seed Bobby Telford of Iowa in a 4-3 decision for the Big Ten championship and avenge his Midlands final loss. McMullan placed third, second and third in his career, and defeated Gwiazdowski earlier this season at the NWCA All-Star Classic 8-4 in an exhibition match. But that match didn't officially count toward their records.

Contenders

Telford, a two-time All-American, beat No. 5 seed Wisconsin's Connor Medbery in the Midlands and Big Ten semifinals, but Medbery defeated McMullan in an early January dual. Telford will likely run into Conn or No. 11 seed Devin Mellon of Missouri in the quarterfinals. Telford defeated Mellon, 6-3 in the NWCA Duals championship.

Fourth seed Oklahoma State's Austin Marsden, a 2011 215-pound Illinois state champion from Crystal Lake Central, is on the top side of the bracket with Gwiazdowski and Medbery. Marsden grabbed All-American honors with an eight-place finish last year in part by knocking off then-No. 6 seed McMullan.

Sixth seed Michigan's Adam Coon, who placed fourth at Big Tens, holds a victory against Telford. Coon dropped a 7-4 decision to Marsden earlier this season.

How about Illinois' guy?

Black and Cabell also fall on the bottom part of the bracket. Cabell has a win over No. 10 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech), and will likely place Black into the consolation bracket against Ohio State's Nick Tavanello while Cabell and Walz have a rematch. Black earned a 5-4 decision over Tavanello last weekend at Big Tens before dropping two straight to fall to eighth-place.

Pick: Gwiazdowski

Darkhorse: Marsden - have to pick the home state guy, right?

Illinois finish: 1-2. Black falls to Cabell then beats Tavanello before getting knocked out of the tournament by Minnesota's Kroells.

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