Different Paths Converge at UNC for Twins Dom and Nick Pietramala


Dom Pietramala (left) and his twin brother, Nick (right), both committed to North Carolina.

Throughout the last 17 years, Dom and Nick Pietramala have not needed to answer the most persistent question twins usually encounter.

How do you tell the difference between you two? 

“If you went up to either of us and you didn't know us, you wouldn't think we were twins,” Nick Pietramala said. 

Start with their positions. Like their dad — Hall of Fame player and two-time NCAA championship-winning coach Dave Pietramala — Nick plays on the defensive end. Dom, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the Class of 2022 according to Inside Lacrosse, is an attackman whose flair is paralleled only by his unselfishness. Nick stands at about 6’4”. Dom hovers closer to 6’0”. Both write with their right hand, but Dom is a natural lefty in lacrosse. 

Their interests diverge off the field, too. On weekends, Nick will get up before dawn to go fishing by himself. Dom, adamantly not a morning person, would rather sleep in, then hang out with friends and watch the Ravens or play “Madden.” Nick, described by his dad as a stickler for the rules, has wanted to serve his country since he was little. Dom, more of free spirit, respects that decision, but knows the military is not for him. 

“They definitely are their own person,” Boys’ Latin (Md.) coach Brian Farrell said. 

Those distinctions made the Pietramala twins’ decisions about where they’d go to college and continue their lacrosse careers even more of a surprise. Both announced last month that they committed to North Carolina.

“Absolutely not,” Dave Pietramala said when asked if he could have foreseen his sons both picking the same destination. 

Although Dom is about an hour older, Nick committed to UNC first on Sept. 21. His fraternal twin brother came to the same realization two days later while playing Xbox. 

“It’s UNC,” Dom told his dad.

After he called Joe Breschi, he knew who he had to tell next. 

“I walked upstairs and said to Nick, ‘Hey, you ready for four more years with me?’” Dom Pietramala said. “It was a smile and a hug. Then we went on with our business.” 

“It’s almost like a corn maze,” said Ron Klausner, Dom and Nick’s godfather and the director of operations for Kooper’s Lacrosse. “They started in the same spot, then veered off, but then 12 years later within days of one another, they met back together. They took completely different paths, but their next chapter will come full circle.”

To some extent, Dom and Nick Pietramala knew there was this possibility since they were both interested in similar programs. Still, they never planned on it. It didn’t even cross their minds until they narrowed their choices down to four or five schools each.

“Where do you want to go?” Dave Pietramala asked Dom early in the process. 

“I want to play for you,” Dom replied. 

“Well, that’s not happening,” Dave said.

That understanding became a reality in April after the COVID-shortened season when Pietramala, the winningest coach in Johns Hopkins history, “mutually parted ways” with the school where he was a three-time All-American defenseman in the late 1980s. Since he took the job in 2000, it was the only program “the boys,” as Pietramala calls his sons, had ever known. “I don’t know if they had thought about going anywhere else,” he said. 

Growing up in and around Johns Hopkins lacrosse, Dom and Nick always felt like one of the guys. But Nick’s earliest lacrosse memory isn’t celebrating national championships with the Blue Jays in 2005 or 2007. He was only 4 when Hopkins last won it all. Instead, he recalled his brother repeatedly trying to pass him the ball on their Maryland Lacrosse Club rec team. He dropped it every time. 

Unlike Dom, who had the makings of a prodigy from the time he was 6, Nick was not a natural. “I’m awful,” he’d constantly tell Klausner. “No you’re not,” Klausner would reply. “You just need to practice.” 

While Nick Pietramala turned into the most fundamentally sound defenseman Klausner said he’s ever worked with, his worries persisted this year. An ACL tear in his right knee he suffered while playing basketball in late January forced him to miss the shortened spring season plus any summer recruiting events. Throughout the recovery process, he leaned on advice from his dad, along with Farrell and Boys’ Latin assistant Lewis Scharff. He worked for Scharff this past summer laying block for Concrete Construction Services & Carroll Masonry. He considers both Farrell and Scharff father figures outside of the house. 

“My conversations with them meant the world,” Nick Pietramala said. “They’re always guys I can trust.” 

Although his desire to join the military after college initially focused his interest on the service academies, Nick Pietramala started to notice there were different routes you could take to get that point. He plans to enroll in an ROTC program at North Carolina. 

While growing up a Pietramala had its obvious advantages, at times it could feel like a rucksack from the doubters and challengers. Dom has heard it all. 

“Oh, you’re only good because you’re Pietramala’s son.” 

“Oh, it’s just because of your last name that you’re starting.” 

Klausner remembered the time Kooper’s had to pull Dom Pietramala off the field during a game at a Beach Lax Festival in Ocean City, Maryland, because a parent from the opposing team was “verbally accosting” him. He was 8 years old. 

“Nobody but them understands what those guys have had to go through,” Klausner said. 

Dom Pietramala is not exactly sure why he started playing attack, but from a young age, he has wanted to be different. 

“I wanted to separate myself and create a name for myself as Dominic Pietramala, not just Pietramala’s son,” he said. “And I feel like that’s kind of given me an extra motivation to work harder and give everything I have every time I go out.”

From the moment Dom Pietramala stepped out onto the turf for Lakers, he wasted little time announcing his presence. From the first day of Boys’ Latin varsity tryouts in 2019, Farrell said it was immediately clear he had the talent plus the lacrosse IQ to make an impact in the MIAA. In the second game he started his freshman year on varsity after Hopkins recruit Brendan Grimes suffered a low lumbar stress fracture, Pietramala had two assists and notched seven goals. He punctuated many with a flick of the wrist — ala Steph Curry after draining a deep three. He finished the 2019 season with 33 goals and 10 assists. 

“Very rarely do you meet someone as cocky, yet humble, as Dom,” then-Boys’ Latin teammate Winston Chodnicki wrote in the description of the highlight reel he compiled of Pietramala’s top plays. It has 85,000 views on YouTube. “A very dangerous combination of traits.”

While Dave Pietramala emphasized to the boys that they were blessed for the opportunity to choose a college, he also instructed them to block out the noise. “This is your process,” he told them. “You’ve worked your whole life for this. Don’t let other people’s opinions and other people’s voices affect your decision.”

That included each other. “We both knew no matter what, that this decision is ours,” Nick Pietramala said. “I didn’t want Dom to make a decision on where he wanted to go just because of me, and I didn’t want to make a decision on where I wanted to go just because of him.”

Still, going through the recruiting process side-by-side offered a helpful perspective and someone else with whom to bounce ideas. “You can’t get a wrong impression when you have two impressions,” Dom Pietramala said. 

As the final schools became harder to separate, Nick created a Google Doc to clarify his priorities and help organize his thoughts. Dom opted for a piece of loose leaf. Of course, they wanted to go to a school where they’d contend for national championships. But at the top of both their lists was another element. 

“It was a sense of family,” Dom said. 

“What is the culture like?” Nick made sure to ask every coach. 

The Pietramalas felt the relationships Breschi, along with his assistants Dave Metzbower and Kevin Unterstein, built with their teams were a mirror image to ones they saw their dad create at Homewood. Their conversations were about more than lacrosse. 

Walking around the UNC campus, Dom Pietramala could see himself going to school there even if he didn’t play sports. The visits that they made on their own were eye-opening for Dave Pietramala, too. Though he faced the likes of Penn State, Duke and North Carolina as a player and a coach more times than he could count, his perspective was limited to the hotel, locker room and field.

“Now I know what I’ve been recruiting against for the last 20 years,” he quipped.  

Nick Pietramala was encouraged by the staff’s confidence in him despite his injury. He felt a genuine connection to the coaches and the program. Above all, he wanted to play for somebody he knew he could trust. 

“I just want to congratulate you on the commitment,” Tar Heels junior attackman Jacob Kelly texted him soon after Inside Lacrosse’s Ty Xanders reported the news. “Welcome to the family.” 

The hardest part was calling the coaches of their other finalists, like Penn State’s Jeff Tambroni and Denver’s Bill Tierney, whom Dom and Nick Pietramala have known since they were kids. “They grew up with these coaches,” Farrell said. “That added another layer to their decisions. It wasn’t easy, but they took it very seriously. Ultimately, they did it the right way.”

“You’re not going to disappoint them,” Dave Pietramala reassured his sons. “They want what’s best for you.” 

While they still have two more years at Boys’ Latin — “The real work begins now,” their dad likes to say — the Pietramalas have given some thought to their change of scenery. They can agree on at least one topic: They don’t want to room together. Both admitted their excitement, however, that when they head south, they’ll do so with someone who will always have their back. 

“He’s my best friend,” Dom said about Nick. “There’s no question about that.”

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