Ben Northrup came from a wrestling family. His father, Dr. Mel Northup, was a veterinarian who won three AAU titles in wrestling, at 165 lbs (75 kg) in 1943 and 1945 and 175 lbs (80 kg) in 1944. Mel Northrup actually wrestled well into his 50s, and in 1960, competed in the same Olympic Trials at which Ben Northrup made the US Olympic Team. Ben was 1959 US Greco-Roman champion at 147.5 lbs (67 kg). In 1960 he was third at the AAUs in Greco-Roman and fourth in freestyle, but made it through the Olympic Trials to compete in Roma. Ben Northrup attended San Francisco State University and wrestled for San Francisco’s Olympic Club.