Holstein competes off the platform diving at Ohio State Invitational. Photo courtesy of Ohio State.
People have a hard time believing Christian Holstein has a mild case of a fear of heights. After all, the Ohio State senior spends part of the day jumping off a platform that is three stories above a swimming pool. “I’m scared of heights but the exhilaration of platform diving is amazing,” Holstein says. “I’ve done a lot of things in my life but you can never match that feeling. Once you do it, you’ll want to do it again. It’s a rush.” The Upper Arlington High School graduate is returning to platform diving after spending most of his career with the Buckeyes focusing on 1-meter and 3-meter dives. In his first collegiate-level platform diving competition, Holstein placed eighth with 285.15 points at the five-team Ohio State Invitational on Nov. 22-24. Holstein has continued to earn high marks on the 1-meter and 3-meter boards, earning Big Ten Diver of the Week honors on Nov. 5 and Nov. 26. Holstein was first in the 3-meter (403.6) and second in the 1-meter (371.15) as the 10th ranked Buckeyes won the Ohio State Invitational. He placed first in a 3-meter (382.20) in a Nov. 1 meet with Cleveland State, Virginia Tech and Denison and took first in the 1-meter (356.4) in an Oct. 25 dual meet against Kenyon. First-year diving coach Justin Sochor believes that cocktail of anxiety and adrenaline fuels Holstein and many other platform divers. “Instead of fear, I like to think of it as a respect of heights,” Sochor says. “There’s a real sense of empowerment and self-satisfaction when you’re standing three stories above the pool. “If you were to go to a haunted house on Halloween and you know it’s not going to be scary, it’s not going to be as exciting for you. That feeling of conquering something you’re afraid of is exhilarating.” Holstein has found only one thing that comes close to the thrill of platform diving. Last summer in Las Vegas, he bungee jumped from the 108th floor of the Stratosphere Hotel. Holstein had a very difficult time walking to the edge of the building to take the plunge. “It was like a controlled free fall,” he says. “I’m not as scared of heights when it comes to having water under me as opposed to having land. “At first you can’t see where you are going to land. You just see a street with a bunch of cars on it and you think you’re going to land in the street. It was crazy.” Debbie and David Holstein say their son was a born daredevil. When he was three-year-old, Holstein was constantly doing flips off the side of the Scioto Country Club pool. “I was a little monkey boy doing handstands and cartwheels all over the place,” Holstein says with a laugh. “I always wanted to jump off the high dive but my parents told me they were afraid my diapers would make me sink to the bottom of the pool. After they told me that, I never wet the bed or wore a diaper again.” Holstein gravitated toward platform diving when he started competing with the Ohio State Diving Club. However the Ohio High School Athletic Association offers the 1-meter springboard as its lone sanctioned diving event, so Holstein focused on that event during the high school season. He won the 2009 Division I state diving title with 484.45 points during his junior year and finished fourth (426.4) as a sophomore. Holstein’s love affair with platform diving cost him a chance to compete for a second state title in high school. During one of his sessions with his club team, he tore his posterior labrum and wasn’t able to compete his senior season at UA. “I was trying a new dive with my club team. I went in and my shoulders contorted in a weird way,” he says. “I knew something was wrong immediately because I couldn’t move my shoulders. I’ve had some minor injuries when I’m diving but I never had anything like that before.” Holstein flew to Orange, Calif. to have Dr. Ben Rubin operate on his shoulder. Rubin stitched up Greg Louganis’ head after the Olympian smacked the diving board during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Holstein went through months of rehabilitation before joining the Buckeyes. Former Ohio State diving coach Vince Panzano, who coached 13 NCAA champions and nine Olympians, encouraged Holstein to compete as a freshman rather than taking a red-shirt year. That season Holstein finished eighth (308.2) on 3-meter at the Big Ten championship and was 16th (309.95) in the 1-meter and 31st (273.7) in the 3-meter at the 2011 NCAA championships. Holstein says the decision to compete that first year “kick started” his career at Ohio State. “It was definitely the right decision. Diving’s all about the mental aspect,” Holstein says. “(Panzano) wanted me to (experience the college meet) atmosphere and get my mental toughness back.” Holstein continued to do well in the 1-meter and the 3-meter as a sophomore. He was the Big Ten runner-up in 1-meter (377.9) and placed 21st in the 1-meter (303.55) and 15th in the 3-meter (397.15) at the 2012 NCAA championships. Holstein competed for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that summer, placing 14th (707.65) in the 3-meter. During his junior year, Holstein injured his lower back and only competed in five meets. The highlight of that year was finishing 15th (321.55) in the 1-meter and 20th (320.45) in the 3-meter at the Big Ten championships. For the second time in his career, Sochor is taking over as Holstein’s coach. When Holstein was in high school, Sochor replaced Drew Johansen as the head coach of the Ohio State Diving Club. Johansen left the club to become the head diving coach at Duke and now is the head diving coach at Indiana. In August, Sochor became the Buckeyes fourth diving coach since 1931, following Mike Peppe, Ron O’Brien and Panzano. Those three produced over 210 All-Americans, 100 Big Ten champions, 60 NCAA national champions and 20 Olympians for Ohio State. “It’s a tremendous honor and it’s very humbling to follow some of the greatest diving minds ever in the world,” Sochor says. “It’s a great legacy. Sochor says in many ways it feels like he and Holstein are picking right where they left off when he coached him with the Ohio State Diving Club. The two are working on rebuilding his platform diving list and fine-tuning dives on the 1-meter and 3-meter boards. Holstein just wants one more shot at going out on top. “Being a senior, this is my last year of collegiate diving,” Holstein says. “I’ve been really progressing on tower dives and I’ve been working on fine tuning my other dives.” “Christian’s one of the most talented kids I’ve worked with,” Sochor says. “We’re going to learn a lot over the next few months but he has the potential to win on all three events in the Big Ten and to reach the finals at the NCAA.”

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