This friendship runs deeper than any rivalry
A true friendship withstands time or anything else that life throws at it, even a spirited high school rivalry that impacts an entire city.
High juniors-to-be Nate Wieland and Oliver Martin are proof of that.
They have been friends since the first grade, both sharing a love for playing sports and both blessed with considerable talent.
What they don’t share is high school loyalties, and that’s a big deal in a town like Iowa City where devotions and emotions run deep.
Wieland lives on the east side of Iowa City and attends City High.
Martin lives on the west side of town and attends West High.
Wieland plays multiple sports, but his favorite is football, where he is a standout dual-threat quarterback for the Little Hawks.
Martin plays multiple sports, including being a star swimmer, but football now tops his list, thanks largely to his potential as a receiver.
Football is why Wieland and Martin met at approximately 1 p.m. on Tuesday at West High to work out together under a baking sun. They both are determined to play football in college.
“He’s a quarterback and I’m a receiver, so we like to meet up and work out and help each other get better,” Martin said. “I mean we’re friends. We like to hang out in the summer and relax."
"We want to meet up and get better and achieve our dream of playing college football.”
You could argue that each is helping his biggest rival get better, but Wieland and Martin see it differently. They share the same goal and are in a position to help each other as a quarterback and a receiver.
“I think just getting out here is going to help both of us in the long run,” Wieland said. “So it’s just a friendship thing.”
Wieland and Martin started working out together this spring. But it’s not a case where they just meet to toss a football around and make small talk.
Wednesday’s session started with the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Wieland throwing passes in which he rolled to his right before hitting the 6-1, 190-pound Martin in the front corner of the end zone.
The routes became longer as the workout progressed. Each pass had a purpose to it.
“These workouts are all about getting better at our positions in football,” Martin said. “So we’ll talk to each about what routes I need to run and throws he needs to make, just kind of help each other get better."
Wieland achieved the rare milestone of starting at quarterback for City as a sophomore last season, while Martin has started at receiver for West since he was a freshman, which is also rare.
College coaches, including Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, have since taken notice.
A turning point for Weiland was the day he received his first recruiting letter from the Iowa coaching staff.
“I was very excited,” Wieland said. “My work ethic from there just sky-rocketed.”
In addition to Iowa, Wieland also has been contacted by Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Memphis, Nevada and Navy despite only playing one season of varsity football.
Martin also has been contacted Iowa, along with several other Division I schools.
He and Wieland both attended a camp at the University of Wisconsin last weekend. Martin also plans to attend several more camps this summer, including one at Notre Dame and at Iowa State.
“Just this past season I started getting a bunch of letters to come to their football camps and a lot more attention from colleges,” said Martin, who also has attended camps at Iowa and Northwestern this spring and summer. “And it’s kind of eye-opening to know they’re watching you and you have a chance to play for someone.”
Wieland plans to attend at least three more camps this summer at Drake, Kansas State and Iowa.
“I haven’t zeroed in that much on one specific school,” Wieland said. “But I definitely want to play quarterback somewhere (in college).”
Iowa is the school that gets most of their attention, because like most of their friends and classmates in Iowa City, Wieland and Martin both grew up cheering for the Hawkeyes.
“It would be very fun,” Wieland said of playing with Martin at Iowa. “Yeah, I’ve thought about it, sometimes.”
Wieland and Martin aren’t necessarily pioneers, but it’s not often that rivals from City and West go out of their way to help each other get better in sports.
“A few kids I know do it,” said Martin, who also plays baseball for West. “But not very many kids from other schools workout together. It’s mainly kids from the same school. But we’re good friends and we just want to help each other get better.”
However, don’t be misled by their friendship because they both cherish the rivalry between City and West in sports. It’s important enough that Wieland and Martin spend one week each year avoiding each other.
“They call it West week and we won’t talk to anyone from West that whole week,” said Wieland, who also starts at guard for the City basketball team. “I’d say it’s intense.”
The emotions from the rivalry also surface at times during their summer workouts, especially after one of them makes a mistake.
“We’ll ride each other about how he ran the wrong route or how I threw it wrong,” Wieland said.
Both players appreciate and respect their high school teammates, but they sometimes try to envision what it would be like playing together.
“If we went to the same high school, we’d be working together all the time and making sure our throws and routes we’re on time," Martin said. "And I’m sure it would be pretty good.”
Wieland played receiver before switching to quarterback in the seventh grade. His older brother, Mitch Wieland, also played quarterback for City and has been a major influence on Nate.
“Just being in the driveway with him throwing taught me a lot about quarterback and I realized I liked quarterback more than receiver,” Nate Wieland said.
Being in the weight room also has made Wieland more driven to play football.
“Ever since I got into weightlifting, I’ve always liked football more,” he said.
Wieland describes himself as a dual-threat quarterback and has the statistics from last season as proof. He passed for 1,093 yards and nine touchdowns last season, while also rushing for 753 yards and seven scores.
Martin led West with 61 catches and 759 receiving yards as a sophomore last season. He finished ninth in receiving yards in Class 4A last season.
Martin and Wieland both prefer to play on offense, but they also play defensive back, mostly out of necessity. That means they likely will face each other in the much-anticipated Battle for the Boot between City and West this fall.
“If he guards me, I want to beat him,” Martin said. “I’m sure they’ll be some friendly talking.”
Watch Wieland and Martin workout in this video:
Watch Martin and Wieland talk more about their friendships, goals and college recruitment in these video interviews: