Nate Wieland runs against Linn-Mar. Tork Mason/For Your Prep Sports. By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Nate Wieland thought he was past the nerves.
A varsity starter as a sophomore Wieland had been through all the nerve-wracking firsts.
First game, first road game, first close game.
After injuries cost Wieland most of his junior season the senior quarterback had even gotten through the nervousness that accompanied his first game back after a season-ending knee injury a year ago.
“Being worried about not having that hit again was the hardest part,” Wieland said. “It’s always in the back of your mind when you are running that you don’t want that knee to get hit again and you don’t want that shoulder to get hit again.”
With all those firsts behind him Wieland figured the anxious, nervousness before a game would be out of his system for good.
Last week, before the first playoff start of his career against North Scott the nerves were back.
“There was some nerves, no doubt about it,” Wieland said. “I was nervous to say the least.”
Those nerves didn’t show up on the field.
Wieland threw for 163 yards and a career-high three touchdowns passes in a 40-14 win over North Scott in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
It was the latest performance in what has been a strong bounce back season for Wieland that has helped him put last year’s injury-riddled season behind.
“I’ve just try to zone last year out completely, I try not to think about it at all,” Wieland said. “I’m just focused on this season and the game that’s in front of me.”
Following a sophomore season in which he threw for 1,093 yards and rushed for 753 yard injuries to his shoulder and knee limited Wieland to one full game a year ago.
Wieland has returned healthy and mostly nerve-free to post the best season of his career.
“I tried to protect it the first couple of games and once I got confidence I knew it was going to be fine,” Wieland said of his knee. “I knew I was going to be a little behind but I tried not to think about that. I knew I could play at the level that I was playing at my sophomore year and the beginning of last year so I just tried not to think about that and just work hard at getting ready.”
A Northern Illinois recruit, Wieland hasn’t skipped a beat this season after missing most of his junior year.
Wieland has completed a career-best 58 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,424 yards and eight touchdowns for tenth-ranked City High (8-2).
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior has added 667 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns entering Friday’s Class 4A quarterfinal tilt against No. 4 Cedar Rapids Washington (9-1) after rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown in Friday’s opening round win.
“He is just tough and he takes some hits,” City High coach Dan Sabers said. “He knows sometimes he doesn’t have a lot of time back there and that is something that he continues to get better with is that is who we are and he has to make quick reads or sometimes try to tuck it and turn up and get what he can. I think he’s gotten better at that.”
Missing games was tough for Wieland last season. No games were more difficult for Wieland to watch from the sidelines than the playoffs.
City High went 2-7 during Wieland’s sophomore season in 2014, failing to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Wieland was limited to spectator status a year ago as City High returned to the 4A quarterfinals for the first time since 2010.
In his final season he intends to make the most of his first and only postseason experience.
“It’s exciting to play in these games,” Wieland said. “I’m looking forward to Friday and a chance to play at the Dome.”
To get past Cedar Rapids Washington and reach the state semifinals City High will likely need a big game from its senior quarterback.
Sabers is confident Wieland is up for the task in the first state quarterfinal start of his career, pre-game nerves or not.
“I’ve always said that whenever you get a big-time player as a coach you are very fortunate especially at the quarterback position,” Sabers said. “Somebody with his experience and his work ethic and all those things that’s going to give anybody confidence.”