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2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships: 165-pound preview, picks

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

Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

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' Jackson Morse (26-6), the No. 9 seed, draws Rider's Connor Brennan (13-5) in the opening round.

[MORE: 2015 NCAA Division I Brackets]

Favorites

Oklahoma State's Alex Dieringer is up a weight class after winning the 157-pound class last year. Dieringer has made a strong case for the Dan Hodge Trophy, the sport's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy, with a 26-0 record, including 23 bonus-point wins. He defeated Virginia's Nick Sulzer and Iowa State's Mike Moreno to win the Southern Scuffle and Big 12 championships, respectively. His last loss was in overtime in the 2013 semifinal to eventual champion Derek St. John of Iowa.

The No. 2 seed Moreno finished sixth and fifth the past two years. He ended his regular season with a pin against No. 3 seed and Big Ten champion Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin. The No. 4 seed Sulzer, won the Las Vegas Invitational and enters the tournament on a 12-match win streak after winning his second ACC championship.

Issac Jordan defeated his first cousin, Ohio State's redshirt freshman Bo Jordan (No. 5 seed) for the Big Ten championship. The loss was also Bo Jordan's first of the season.

Contenders

Morse's top rivals Indiana's Taylor Walsh and Northwestern's Pierce Harger figure to play spoilers.

No. 6 seed Taylor Walsh of Indiana is a pinning machine, having won the Schalles Award for the nation's top pinned in 2014 and he's likely to get it again. The Hooiser senior is up a weight class after failing to earn All-American honors the last two NCAAs at 157. He holds three wins over Morse this season.

Harger is 1-3 this season against Walsh with the lone win a 15-0 technical fall. He also had two wins over Morse this season.

How about Illinois' guy?

Morse defeated Brennan 8-6 in November and will beat him again Thursday. Morse will draw EIWA champion and No. 8 seed Peyton Walsh of Navy. Walsh missed last year's postseason because of a knee injury. Morse is happy it's a different first name for this Walsh and moves to the quarterfinals where he falls to Dieringer.

Morse will likely draw No. 13 seed Cooper Moore of Northern Iowa next. He wins and gets a rematch with Bo Jordan, but it will be the same result. Morse heads to the seventh place match where he avenges his two losses to Harger.

Pick: Dieringer

Darkhorse: Taylor Walsh

Illinois finish: Seventh place

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