Former North Wilkes High School coach and educator Jeff Peal, 57 and a resident of Taylorsville, died Monday in a car accident in Bowling Green, Ohio.
According to news reports, Peal was identified as the driver of a Ford F-150 who died when his vehicle was struck by a Freightliner semi-tractor with an attached van trailer Monday afternoon at the intersection of U.S. 6 and Bowling Green Road East.
Peal failed to stop at a stop sign and was struck by the Freightliner driven by Troy Pedraza, 49, of Napoleon, Ohio, who was not injured in the crash, according to reports.
Peal was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in his vehicle, Jason Bowlin, 44, of Hays and the current wrestling coach at North Wilkes High, was also injured.
Bowlin was critical but stable at the scene and was transported to a local hospital with broken bones and internal injuries, for which he had surgeries scheduled for today (Wednesday), according to reports.
Peal and Bowlin were attending an Ohio wrestling camp in which Peal’s son, Elijah Peal, was a participant. Elijah was this year’s 152-pound conference champion wrestler at Alexander Central High School and competed in the 3A state tournament at 160 pounds as a junior.
Jeff Peal, principal of Millersville Christian Academy in Taylorsville, was a native of Powhatan Point, Ohio.
Peal was a teacher and coach at North Wilkes from 1986 to 1999. He coached football, track, tennis and golf at the school and started the wrestling program there in 1986.
The Vikings had undefeated wrestling regular seasons in 1994 and 1997 and in 1998 captured the 2A state championship.
Peal was named wrestling coach of the year in 1999 by Mat News.
His first (and the school’s first) state champion wrestler was David Johnson in 1990. Johnson is currently the director of secondary education (grades six-13) and county athletic director/school safety coordinator of Wilkes County Schools.
“Jeff was a great Christian man and a wonderful husband and father and a fantastic person,” said Johnson on Tuesday. “He made a tremendous impact on Wilkes County and North High.”
Johnson added that Peal “and a few others put Wilkes on the map, wrestling wise. He made such a positive impact on everybody he came in contact with. So many people have stories about how he made then feel special. He was a great mentor to so many people.”
Peal gave the current North High principal, Deborah Surgeon, her first teaching job at North Wilkes Middle School, Johnson noted.
Peal is the former associate superintendent of Alexander County Schools and was an Alexander County commissioner at the time of his death. He received his doctorate in educational leadership from Gardner-Webb University in 2006.
According to Jeff Peal’s Facebook post on July 7, he and wife Renee Peal recently celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary.
“We have had a great 31 years and I am excited about the next 31,” Peal posted. “God has given us three amazing children (Savannah, Baylee and Elijah), two outstanding sons-in-law (Ryan and Seth), three sweet grand babies (Ivy, Grant and Hudson), and one on the way for Baylee and Seth (Adalynn).
“Elijah’s sweet Kaitlyn is special to us as well. I am so thankful that God took an old wreck like me and blessed me so abundantly. I love Jesus, love my wife, and love my family.”