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2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships: 184-pound preview, picks

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

Michigan's Domenic Abounader, who won his first Big Ten championship this year, is a contender for the 184-pound championship.
Michigan's Domenic Abounader, who won his first Big Ten championship this year, is a contender for the 184-pound championship.
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.

Illinois' Nikko Reyes (24-10) draws No. 13 Victor Avery of Edinboro (28-6) in the opening round.

[MORE: 2015 NCAA Division I Brackets]

Favorites

The top 10 seeds in this weight class don't come from traditional power house wrestling schools. It's not until Minnesota's Brett Pfarr at No. 11 until the historic programs are represented.

Cornell's Gabe Dean has won the Southern Scuffle for the past two seasons and made a lasting impact each time. Last year, he beat Penn State's eventual three-time national champion Ed Ruth and this year he pinned Pitt's Max Thomusseit. Dean fell to Ruth in the semifinals at NCAAs last year. Dean's two losses this year are from Oregon State's Taylor Meeks and North Dakota's Hayden Zillmer, both happened at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in December.

Thomusseit's only loss this season is to Dean. The four-time NCAA qualifier has yet to earn All-American honors and just won his first ACC title this season.

Contenders

Fifth seed Blake Stauffer of Arizona State, a three-time qualifier, defeated Meeks in both the Vegas final and Pac-12 championship. Stauffer holds two very close wins over Zillmer in sudden victory and a tiebreaker.

Meeks is down a weight class after wrestling at 197 for the past three years. He finished fourth in 2013. Zillmer bumped up to 174 this season and won a West Regional title.

Old Dominion's Jack Dechow, who lost 5-4 in last year's third place match - won Midlands and a MAC championship this season. Lehigh's Nathaniel Brown, who fell to Dean in the EIWA's championship, redshirted last season after qualifying for NCAAs in 2012 and 2013.

Michigan's Domenic Abounader, who won his first Big Ten championship this year, will likely draw Iowa's Sammy Brooks in the second round, and possibly Dean on Friday morning in the quarterfinals. A win by Abounader against Brooks would hurt Iowa's team chances.

Two other returning All-Americans include, No. 10 Lorenzo Thomas of Penn and unseeded Ophir Bernstein of Brown.

How about Illinois' guy?

Reyes has struggled to stay consistent this year. He has wins over Bernstein and recently over Missouri's Willie Miklus, and narrowly beat Wisconsin's Rickey Robertson in sudden victory. But he has also given up 17 points in three straight defeats to Iowa's Sammy Brooks, Pfarr and Nebraska's TJ Dudley.

Reyes fell to Avery, 16-5, for sixth place at Midlands in December. It won't be much different this time.

Pick: Stauffer

Darkhorse: Abounader

Illinois finish: 0-2. Reyes falls to Avery and gets knocked out by Duke's Jacob Kasper.

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