However, Keller’s bid for a shot at a bronze medal was thwarted by Colt Cotten (36-3) of Benton as the Northeast Region champ recovered from a hard-fought 4-2 loss to Cruz in the championship semis to carve out an 8-6 win.
“My hat’s off to Jake,” Curwensville coach Duane Wriglesworth said. “He really has wrestled a great tournament so far. He’s right up there with the best of them.
“The way I see it, the top seven or eight kids are very close. It‘s a very tough weight class.”
Cotten, a junior with two PIAA medals already, single-legged Keller for the initial takedown, and the two traded reversals very late in the first period.
Keller was on top to start the second period and answered a Cotten escape to trail 5-4 going to the final two minutes.
Cotten was able to turn him for a two-point nearfall, which proved crucial when Keller reversed to make it 7-6. They finished on their feet after Cotten escaped again.
Keller’s earlier matches were similar in that there was no scoring through two periods, for the Golden Tide matman was able to ride Schutz (31-5) and Lansberry (40-6) for two minutes.
The outcomes were much different.
Keller came off the bottom with a Granby Roll and immediately caught Schutz in a headlock for the fall.
“That was spectacular,” Wriglesworth said. “To see that happen down here was amazing.”
Against Lansberry, Keller again chose the bottom position for the third period and received his only point when the NE runner-up signaled the referee he was giving up the escape.
Wriglesworth said, “Lansberry let us up, so we started on our feet, and that’s how it finished.”
Keller (38-5) will wrestled Charleroi senior Josh Kwasny (39-5) for fifth place.
The Southwest Region third-place finisher’s path to the consy finals mirrors Keller’s in that he shook off a 7-0 loss to Lansberry in the prelims with a 3-1 effort.
Kwasny eliminated SE-4 Austin Jackson of Bermudian Springs 14-6 and NW-2 Matt Bryer of Cochranton 9-8, then defeated SW-5 Shane Gentry of South Side Beaver 4-2 before losing 5-0 to SE-1 Laike Gardner of Biglerville.
Cruz (41-2), who lost 4-2 in overtime to Gardner in the region finals last week, will meet Northwest Region champ Dylan D’Urso (39-1) of Reynolds for the gold medal.
Both pulled out semifinal wins with reversals in the final seconds, Cruz edging Cotten 5-3 and D’Urso nipping Gardner 4-3.
“Cruz and Cotten probably was the match of the day,“ Wriglesworth said. “That could have gone either way. That’s how close these kids are.”
District 9 will have five other medal winners.
Shooting for fifth place along with Keller will be 120-pounder Nate Schwab and 126-pounder Karl Lightner of Smethport and 126-pounder Corey Bush of Ridgway.
Lightner and Bush were the district’s only semifinalists.
Brookville 138-pounder Brock Zacherl and Kane 145-pounder Evan Delong will be contending for seventh place.
Complete results courtesy the PIAA: http://www.wrestlereg.com/2012-PIAA/