Wood is fine. I'd get the idea that it is not out of your head right now. There is nothing wrong with it unless it has been abused, and the same applies to any material, including metal. I'd look at Calumets, B&Js, and the like. They will get you shooting, they will give you more movements than most cheap 8x10 field cameras, and they will leave you plenty of money to invest in nice glass.

Also, $2,000 is a ton of money to spend on a "beginner" kit. I really would be leery of spending that much at first. I'd make a smaller investment, and wait until you have used 8x10 for a while and determined if it is something that is doing your "work" any good. If it is, then some day you might sell off your camera and find a better one. If not, you can sell off the kit at no big loss.

The term "portrait lens" is usually used to describe medium-long lenses. Is this what you mean? After all, every lens can be used for portraits...just depends on what you want the portrait to be like. If you really want a long lens for 8x10, you may end up spending lots of money on that. 360mm is normal, so a 720mm lens would be double that...about like a 105mm on 35mm. I would just start with a normal lens and do what you can with it. If you really can't do what you need to do using a normal lens, and all else fails finding something longer and affordable, you can "resort" to a graphic arts lens, like my Kodak Copying Ektanon 21-1/4 in. (approx. 540mm) f/11. They are cheap, long, and generally have tons of coverage. People may say that they are not suited for portraits, but I say phooey to that, especially as a stop-gap lens. They will be fine...perhaps too small a max. aperture for you, though.

For tripods, I suggest a Bogen 3051 based on my own experience with them. I am sure that other brands have similar offerings, but I am not familiar with them. I can say nothing but good about my 3051, though.