LOS BANOS -- The doc's orders were specific: No practice until January; no match action until February.
Six months, the Modesto Kaiser orthopedist warned his patient, one of the Valley's bright young wrestling stars. I want a full six-month recovery before your first match.
Kendal Klette's tender right shoulder -- dotted with three half-inch scars -- would need that time to heal and mend.
The Los Banos lightweight had arthroscopic surgery to fix a torn labrum in August.
Steel pins were also inserted on the front and back of the shoulder, acting as anchors for the once-swinging socket.
Klette understood the doctor's orders and respected his work -- "He's a shoulder specialist," the junior said -- but by November, he couldn't go another day without wrestling.
The waiting wore on him like an armbar.
Can I now?
Klette estimates he tried to persuade his doctor to let him back on the mat three times -- and three times the doctor reminded him of his orders.
Six months. No less.
"He tried to keep me out of the wrestling room, but I still got in there," the 103-pounder said slyly. "I went against the doc's orders for about a month. I wanted to test my shoulder. ... Nothing could keep from the mat."
The gamble has provided early returns.
Klette missed the entire regular season but because of his work in the practice room, rolls into the second leg of the postseason in prime physical and mental shape.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Divisional gets underway Friday at Stockton Lincoln High.
The top-six placers at divisionals advance to Masters -- the qualifying tournament for the CIF State Meet in Bakersfield.
"Really, I'm just excited to be wrestling again," said Klette, who opted for surgery after enduring a rash of dislocated shoulders in 2009. "I'm setting high goals. I hope to get to the finals and wrestle as tough as I can.
"I'm fine right now. It hasn't bothered me at all -- not at league or nothing. I got everything working as good as I can get it."
Klette is no stranger to the divisional tournament. This will be his third trip. His first two appearances still make him cringe; still taint his cheery disposition.
Klette was put out as a freshman and then disqualified as sophomore after failing a groom check before Day 2.
Officials found a scab on his ear and feared impetigo, a skin rash. He didn't have it, but couldn't prove it with a doctor's note in time to keep his place in the tournament.
A few months later, he was under the knife.
"In the last calendar year, from divisionals and what happened there, it's been one thing after another," Los Banos coach Josh Adams said. "After the surgery, his attitude and outlook changed. He began to rehab the right way and train the right way. He was committed. It's easy to skip out on practice, especially when you know you're not going to wrestle, but he's been the first guy at the door. It should pay off."
So far, so good.
Klette began his season at last week's Central California Conference championship with two matches, including a duel with Turlock's Garret Fortado in the final.
A reversal in the third round gave Fortado the victory, 5-2, but the match bolstered Klette's confidence.
He was back, and more importantly, on par with the section's best.
Fortado is ranked sixth in the section's 103-pound weight class by The California Wrestler, and will likely climb in the next release.
The top-ranked lightweight, Jake Congleton of Beyer, quit shortly before the Modesto Metro Conference.
"Staying under the radar has been big for Kendal. Congleton burned out. He was ranked No. 1 in the section and now he's gone," Adams said. "Whereas Kendal is fresh and ready to go. .. Nobody has had a chance to scout him. They know his tendencies to an extent because of his past, but he's got a couple of new things we've worked into his offense that might surprise people."
Klette, unranked and unheralded, relishes the opportunity to disrupt the brackets at 103s.
"I'm glad it's like that. I get to sneak up on people," he said. "I wanted to come into the season unnoticed and see what happened from there."
His shoulder took care of the first part.
The rest is up to him.
James Burns is managing editor/sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.