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' Steven Rodrigues (16-11) draws Minnesota's Nick Dardanes, the No. 6 seed, in the opening round.
[MORE: 2015 NCAA Division I Brackets]
Ohio State's Logan Stieber hopes to become just the fourth four-time champion. In 2012, he beat Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver at 133 pounds, the next year it was Iowa's Tony Ramos, before moving up to 141 where he major decisioned Virginia Tech's Devin Carter. Stieber remains perfect in the postseason, picking up his fourth Las Vegas Invitational title and fourth Big Ten title. He's 114-4 with 50 pins in his career, including a 24-0 record with 20 bonus-point wins this season.
Carter became the ninth wrestler to win his fourth ACC championship and the third at two different weights. Edinboro's Mitchell Port beat Carter for Midlands title and won his third EIWA championship this season. Port's only loss this season came against Stieber in the NWCA regionals. He's a two-time All-American with a second-place finish in 2013 to Oklahoma's Kendric Maple.
While Missouri's Lavion Mayes is the No. 3 seed, he isn't getting much attention after he was upset at the MAC championships semifinals by Old Dominion's Chris Mecate, No. 11 seed, 3-1 in sudden victory. Mayes wrestled his way back for third place. But his title hopes have fallen on deaf ears with Mecate or Dardanes as his likely quarterfinal opponent.
Dardanes placed seventh at 141 in 2013 before moving up to 149 where he failed to reach the podium. The Oak Park-River Forest, Ill. product, was upset by Iowa's Josh Dziewa and settled for third place at Big Tens. Dardanes took Stieber to a 9-8 decision in Columbus this year and has been the closest to upsetting the champ.
How about Illinois' guy?
Rodrigues was the lone Illini that did not earn an automatic qualifying bid at Big Tens. Instead, he was granted an at-large bid because of his regular season performance which includes wins over four ranked opponents. He's split two matches with Dziewa this season, and dropped a match to Dardanes in Minnesota.
Rodrigues falls to Dardanes then rebounds with a win over Bucknell's Tyler Smith before No. 12 seed Joseph Ward (North Carolina) ends his tournament run.
Illinois finish: 1-2.
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