Now in an unfamiliar situation as South Dakota State diving coach, Sean Letsinger returns to familiar place in Knoxville

Former Knoxville and University of Tennessee diver Sean Letsinger was in a familiar place Thursday at Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.

However, he was wearing an unfamiliar blue Jackrabbits coaching shirt.

Since late last summer, the former multiple state-champion diver at Catholic High School and UT competitor has been living in Brookings, S.D., and serving as the diving coach for the South Dakota State University team.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," he said during the first day of the Tennessee Diving Invitational, which was highlighted by Tennessee senior Jodie McGroarty's first-place finish in the women's 3-meter springboard.

While this is Letsinger's first stint as a college head diving coach, his desire to stay in the sport has existed for some time. But his focus on coaching came a little earlier than expected.

After arriving at UT in 2007 with high expectations, he was diagnosed during his freshman year with Wilson's Disease, a genetic condition that does not allow his body to process copper. It affected his movement and thus his college career.

"It was hard at first," said Letsinger, the son of Jones Center diving announcers Sam and Lee Letsinger. "But it turned my focus on to coaching."

While Sean Letsinger, 23, was used to the complex movements involved in competitive diving, he is learning that being a college head coach also involves balancing of a different kind, including learning all the NCAA regulations.

He said he is enjoying his time at South Dakota State — except for the cold weather.

"I got a couple of job offers and ultimately I decided to go to South Dakota State because it kind of takes me out of my element away from the SEC and places I usually travel to and places I usually see," he said.

A proclaimed "Vol for Life," he said he has enjoyed being back in Knoxville this week and showing his divers where he used to train.

His top diver in the meet Thursday was Clark Kocourek, who finished 34th out of 48 competitors in the men's preliminaries.

McGroarty used a solid 65.80 on her final dive to win the 3-meter with 331.55 points. Teammate Tori Lamp (308.45) finished third, while Lady Vol freshman Samantha Lera (238.15) was 12th.

Former Bearden state champion Lisa Bogosian (249.15) of Alabama was 11th.

In the men's 1-meter springboard, Tennessee senior Brent Sterling (315.40) was eighth. David Bonuchi (374.7) of Missouri was first, while Duke's Nick McCrory, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in the 10-meter synchronized, was second with 319.75 points.

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