Feeding frenzy a Humboldt tradition



October 9, 2015 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — Calling it ham simply doesn’t do it justice.
“Ham steak,” Lisa Wrestler clarified.
Each serving was so monstrously thick that the paper plate burdened with the responsibility of carrying such a cut should surely bend, if not break, under the pressure.
Well, it would it wasn’t for the more than generous helping of comfort food heaped on the other side of the already helpless plate — you know, to provide some balance.
“Cheesy potatoes, corn and biscuits,” she continued.
The ice-cream covered brownies needed their own bowl, understandably.
For the better part of 14 years, Wrestler has been testing the limits of disposable dishes, all for the benefit of the Humboldt High football team. Each Thursday night, the Cubs and their coaches gather in the school’s cafeteria for food, fellowship and more food thanks to Wrestler and a group of parents who volunteer to help in the kitchen and serve the team.
The former Humboldt High cook doesn’t get compensated beyond the cost of the ingredients. She’s not officially commended by the school or paraded for her efforts during the Friday night games either. In fact, Wrestler mostly goes unseen by her gracious guests on Thursdays — organizing a meal for a few dozen growing teenagers keeps her occupied in the kitchen.
Wrestler simply cooks for her children. Her two sons graduated years ago after playing for Humboldt’s football team, but the players enjoying her cooking nowadays are just as much a part of her family.
“They’re like sons to me,” Wrestler said. “Football is supposed to be like a family.”
And to Wrestler, families are supposed to eat together. So she doesn’t mind being the unseen, unsung hero for these boys’ seemingly endless appetites.
“There’s usually not a lot of leftovers,” she said, whipping up yet another plate of food for a late arrival.
Head coach Logan Wyrick, who gladly partakes in the evening’s event along with the rest of his coaching staff, is experiencing Wrestler’s weekly tradition for the first time this season. The first-year head coach for the Cubs said he remembers when his old high school squad would gather for a pre-game meal back in his playing days, but it was certainly no weekly happening.
“We might do it if we had a playoff game coming up,” Wyrick said. “But that’s about it.”
But the weekly team meal allows Humboldt to bond more off the field, a crucial element in creating chemistry among teammates. The players and coaches will begin their Thursday tradition with a prayer, each person holding the hand of those next to him.
Then they’ll split off into tables and wait for members of the Gridiron Club, the parents’ booster club of sorts, to serve Wrestler’s cooking. From then, it’s a whole lot of second helpings with some conversation sprinkled in between bites.
The tradition has become such a staple among the players that they refused to let it come to an end this season. Wrestler wrestled with the idea of taking this year off until a group of students arrived at her doorstep, pleading for her to continue being the team’s favorite cook.
When the players finally convinced Wrestler, they moved on to convince Wyrick of the team meal’s benefits. The coach, who had actual coaching to do on the field, couldn’t get his team to stop thinking about Thursday nights.
“I got here worrying about this or that, but the players wouldn’t stop hounding me about this meal,” Wyrick said.
Unfortunately for Wyrick and company, Wrestler won’t be around the Humboldt High kitchen forever. She said she should continue cooking for the squad next season, but the year after that is in question.
“My grandson will be playing (football) Thursday nights,” Wrestler said, thinking back to when her own children began the sport she loves. “So I’ve got to be there for him.”
In the meanwhile, the players will keep finding room for another serving. The coaches will too. And Wrestler will keep doing what she does best: Feeding her family.
“Isn’t this great?” one parent asked. “Almost makes me wish I played football.”