Josh Bratchley disappeared on Tuesday after failing to go out of a cave that he was exploring with four others, according to the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.
The group of experienced divers plunged into the Gainesboro Cave, north of Cookeville. On leaving, they noticed that Bratchley had disappeared. They called 911 early Wednesday, according to the EMA.
Specialized divers from Arkansas and Florida have been called in to assist in what officials have termed a "highly technical rescue". On Wednesday night, Bratchley was out of the water, according to the agency.
He was awake, alert and oriented when he was found.
"His only request was that he wanted pizza," said Derek Woolbright, spokesperson for EMA, during a press conference.
Edd Sorenson, a Florida rescue diver who went to Tennessee to rescue Bratchley, said he found Bratchley in an air pocket in the flooded cave.
"He said, thanks, thank you, who are you?" Sorenson said. "We had a good conversation."
Officials said it took 45 to 50 minutes for Cave Adventure Sorrenson to find the trapped diver.
"It was a very small, nasty cave," said Sorrenson. He said that many similar missions have become recovery efforts rather than rescues, and he was surprised to find Bratchley alive.
Both officials and Sorenson cited Bratchley's calm and mental strength as the key to his survival.
The British Cave Rescue Council stated that Bratchley had contributed to efforts in Thailand.
The Tennessee Grotto is about 3 miles from the main road and in a very rural area. Ethan Burris from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said the group had been in the area for two or three days to map Mill Pond Cave.
"You have to go underwater to enter the cave," said Burris. "The maps we have, we are not sure of the current depth,"
The other members of the group of missing divers remained on the scene to offer their help and assistance in the rescue operations.
"They are our main asset in providing us with information about the cave, how it is laid out," said Burris.