Coach Justin Sochor took over an Ohio State men’s diving team in 2013 that was laden with juniors and seniors. That meant Sochor had one year of recruiting to revamp the Buckeyes after an exodus of talent.
“I wasn’t trying to change an old team,” he said. “I was trying to build a new one.”
Sochor said he wanted talented students who would make good teammates to represent the diving team, as well as the university, positively.
He found that in sophomore diver Colin Zeng.
Zeng, a Fujian, China, native, started to dive after his parents suggested it at a young age. He said he discovered early on that the diving training in China was very strenuous.
“I didn’t do a lot of competition,” Zeng said. “It’s very intense. We (train) at least six hours a day, seven days a week.”
Then, in 2010, Zeng came to the United States to focus on developing his diving skills even further.
“I was at the training camp at Stanford,” Zeng said. “After I got my student visa, I started to focus more on competing.”
According to DiveMeets, Zeng finished first in all of the competitions he competed in during high school.
The sustained dominance made him a hot target for collegiate programs across the nation. This led him to start looking at colleges in his junior year, he said. OSU proved to be a good fit.
“A lot of Colin’s traits were what I was looking for,” Sochor said. “He’s got a high skill level, he gets along with his teammates, and he is smart.”
Zeng came to OSU looking to succeed in what the coach called one of the most prestigious conferences in the nation.
“Physically, diving-wise, experience with his training, he will stack right up with the divers in the Big Ten,” Sochor said. “He is a potential champion, but so are they. There are a lot of potential champions in (the conference), and he’s on the same dance floor as them.”
Zeng has proved that this year. A five-time Big Ten Diver of the Week award winner, Zeng has finished first in all but three events in the 2015-16 season. In the trio of events he didn’t win, he was close, claiming second place each time.
He said he looks to continue his success at the Big Ten Championships, in which he will compete in three events: the 1-meter, 3-meter and the platform. After that, the NCAA Championship in late March is on the docket for Zeng.
Like any competitor, he said he wants to win, but rather than setting his sights on those sorts of accolades, his plan is to just become the best diver he can be.
“I’m just trying to focus and get more consistent on my dives,” Zeng said.
Despite his success athletically, Zeng places a great deal of emphasis on excelling in the classroom too, his coach said.
“The majority of his focus is academics,” Sochor said. “Training just happens in the part of the day we can get him. Once he gets into that Big Ten meet, there is no more tutoring and study table hours… It’s all diving.”
As the conference championships approach at the end of February, Zeng is fine-tuning his dives to make them as perfect as can be. The biggest thing, he said, is just becoming as comfortable and consistent as possible.
Sochor said he thinks that his star diver is ready to go and show the Big Ten what he is all about.
“Colin gets pretty mean when he is competing,” Sochor said. “He is not going to be easy to beat.”