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2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships: 133-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' Zane Richards (23-6), the No. 5 seed, draws Oregon State's Jack Hathaway (28-10) in the opening round.

[MORE: 2015 NCAA Division I Brackets]

Favorites

Minnesota's Chris Dardanes won the Las Vegas Invite in December and his first Big Ten championship, and enters the tournament with a perfect record. The Oak Park-River Forest, Ill. product earned fourth in 2012 at 141 and sixth in 2013 at 133.

Edinboro's A.J. Schoop, the No. 9 seed, was a top-ranked wrestler early this season before suffering an injury at Midlands. Richards upset then-No. 1 ranked Schoop at Midlands. Schoop, a two-time All-American, has reached Friday night's semifinals the past two years before falling to eventual champions Logan Stieber (Ohio State) and Tony Ramos (Iowa). Schoop was upset by Lock Haven's Ron Perry in the EWL semifinals.

Wisconsin's Ryan Taylor was awarded the No. 2 seed after his second place finish at Big Tens to Dardanes. Taylor was a qualifier last year at 125. Iowa's All-American Cory Clark, who placed fifth at 125 in 2014, beat Richards at Midlands this year. Richards and Clark wrestled two more times, with Clark winning the most recent in the Big Tens quarterfinals before the sophomore Hawkeye lost in overtime to Dardanes in the semifinal.

Contenders

Richards has a good draw where he could face No. 13 seed Cory Brewer (Oklahoma) or No. 4 seed Johnni DiJulius (Ohio State) in the quarterfinals. Richards did have his worse match of the season against Taylor, when he was technical called 23-7 at home.

Along with Brewer, the Big 12 brings No. 6 seed Earl Hall (Iowa State), who won the Southern Scuffle. No. 7 seed Jimmy Gulibon (Penn State), who Hall beat at the Scuffle, and fell to Richards in the fifth-place bout at Big Tens.

Pick: Dardanes

Darkhorse: Richards or Brewer

Illinois finish: All-American, sixth place all the way to national champion is possible.

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